I took some time out from my visit to the Sea Otter Classic last week to speak with Diane Lees of The Outspoken Cyclist radio show. It was a chance to discuss the implications of the Boston Marathon bombing for cycling as well as (much more pleasant) spend a bit of time promoting the Kickstarter project for my book “Why We Ride.”
Most of the world’s cyclists don’t actually live within the broadcast range of Cleveland’s WJCU, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hear the show. Diane’s a delight to talk to and this particular episode serves up the Bike Snob as well, who was promoting his new book, “Bike Snob Abroad,” which I look forward to reading.
You can check out the podcast here.
BTW: The Kickstarter campaign is doing well and as of this writing has just passed the $17,000 mark with six days to go. I’ve put some great rewards together and if you haven’t checked the project out, I encourage you to drop by. I hope (and suspect) that you’ll find at least one of them appealing.
The Kickstarter is here. Drop by before time runs out!
I think about the bike a lot. Too much. I think about my bike. I think about your bike. I think about the next bike. I sell bikes, and I tell stories about bikes. I reminisce about bikes I used to have, and I try to convince my wife that the next bike is important, more important in whatever very specific way than all the ones that came before, the ones still crowding the garage and spilling into the basement, leaning against the cedar chest, blocking access to the laundry room.
The bike, however, is incidental.
I will pore over the details of the build, wondering if 12-32 isn’t maybe a better choice than 11-28 for where I want to go. I will consider 28mm vs. 32mm, because of the particular ruts that mark graded New England dirt roads and the washboards that develop during the latter stages of mud season, the ones that shudder through your whole body as you plummet off the top of some nowhere hill. I will consider lighter wheels.
I don’t want another bike. I think I do, but I don’t. I want to get to the places the next bike might take me, long fire roads that connect high lookouts to hidden ponds, ropey dirt paths that lead past people’s other homes or the retreats of those who no longer wish to live so close to the flame of peopled lunacy, simple sand and gravel throughways that ring farms and bisect primordial forests. I want to feel the gravel and hard pack beneath the tires of that next bike, and I want to fall off it and scrape my elbow, lay in the road laughing.
The bike is no more necessary to that experience than the elbow.
I want to ride with people who have that sort of bike, because those are cool people. They’ll give you a bottle when you’ve underestimated the day, the weather, or your own capacity for suffering, because really, suffering you can seek and tolerate is no suffering at all, but only a gilding for your flowery ego. The people who ride bikes are the best sorts of people, because they’re all kinds of people, and the bike only gives you a reason to speak to them, that and the sand and the gravel and your desperate need for water.
I will call Padraig on the phone and wander the parking lot at work while we plot and plan the stories we will write about riding our bikes up and down geological formations, places where glaciers scraped up against granite, and we will try to piece together a second living from our efforts, all of it wrapped around bikes and cycling, all of it combing through the details, panning for gold.
We have this friendship, he and I, that seems to have started in a correspondence about cycling, but later found us standing face to face in a casino, hugging each other in incredulous first meeting bemusement. We drove out past the strip malls in the Las Vegas hinterland to crowd around a greasy grass track and watch a bike race, all of an industry swirling around in the spotlit darkness. On the way back he bought a Mountain Dew and a bag of Peanut M&Ms, so he could stay up and write more stories about bikes.
I don’t know if any of this, the farm roads, the casino, the people, if any of it happens without the bike. I don’t know. I am under the impression that you can skate, surf, climb, hike, run to the same sorts of salvation the bike has brought me. I can take the thing itself too seriously. I can focus all my attention there, when it is only really a cipher for life’s cluttered bucket of fun and misery, a pivot point.
The bike is incidental, deeply important, but only incidental. I think.
I spent Saturday down in Denver at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, with my 13-year-old daughter, Annika (a gorgeous five-foot-nine-inch blonde, who already has me rethinking my position on gun-control). It was terrific walking the aisles with a budding bike geek, who spent much of the time admiring (and hinting I should buy) some of the most beautiful bikes I’ve seen in ages.
The show also provided a rare opportunity to catch up with old friends, including my buddy Patrick O’Grady, Andy Hampsten and Ron Kiefel and my favorite crazy person, Gregg Bagni. One thing I missed, however, was the chance to catch up with Red Kite’s own Commander in Chief, Padraig, who had planned to be there, but had far more pressing issues at home.
To explain, Padraig and his beautiful wife, Shana, welcomed a new member to their family on Friday. This seven-pound, six-ounce young man is as-of-yet unnamed, but sports the moniker “The Deuce” in honor of his birthday, 2/22. The Deuce is off to a bit of a shaky start and is spending his first few days in a neo-natal intensive care unit, so our thoughts, warmest wishes and best hopes are with the Brady family, Patrick, Shana and big brother Philip. Nothing is more important.
I fully trust that in 13 years, Padraig, you will be strolling through the aisles if the 2026 NAHBS with “The Deuce” and he, too, will be trying to talk you into buying that really beautiful titanium ‘cross bike. Of course, it will be his birthday, so you will have to comply. Start saving your pennies, my friend.
Okay, dear readers, it’s time again to sort through the inbox and see what folks are talking about. Let’s start with a follow-up to a story that had long since slipped to the back of my mind.
Just read your Explainer about the alleged intentional cycling crash caused by Jonathan Atkins. (see “Assault and bikery in the first degree”)I am a very experienced rider and didn’t even know who this guy was until today when he intentionally nudged me into a ditch during the group Airport ride in Atlanta GA. I rode back into the group after recovering and rode beside this guy and let him know what I thought of his actions in a very verbal exchange. He was very rude, defensive, and gave a ridiculous explanation for why did what he did. He then asked for my name and I made him give me his name first. I know one of his team members Dan Busch (nice guy) and wanted to know for sure if Jonathan Atkins was on his team so I began to ping the internet for information. I’m not one bit surprised with what I have just found; this guy should not be riding with anyone. I will now see if I can add any support to the criminal charges against this guy (yes he was that appalling). Any advice is appreciated.
As far as I can tell, there was no action taken by prosecutors in this case and Mr. Atkins, as you noted, continues to ride for the Beck Janitorial Cycling team.
I find your story disturbing on many levels, not least of which is that this fella appears not to have learned from his past mistakes. If the details surrounding your incident are true, then you should probably contact USA Cycling and, if you so wish, his sponsor.
Even if this occurred during a training ride, USA Cycling does have the authority to strip a rider of his license. It may be time to raise the issue with the sport’s governing body.
Finally, the thing that gets my interest piqued is that the team lists Mr. Atkins as a “mentor” for younger riders. I generally applaud the idea of older riders – he’s 47 – setting aside their own goals and imparting hard-earned knowledge and an appreciation of the beauty of the sport to those just getting started. Of course, if this story and the May incident prove to be true, he’s the last guy I’d want teaching my son about the intricacies of the sport.
Please, Christian, let me know how this pans out. We’ll follow-up. Meanwhile, the rest of you can feel free to weigh in with comments below.
Regarding my recent “Tale of two lawsuits” column, several of you felt that I had been rather dismissive of the readers’ lawsuit against Lance Armstrong and his publishers.
One comment, posted below the story, argued that there were ample reasons for the suit and suggests that I may have mocked the basis of the suit:
Let’s turn this around and ask the question, if someone had filed a lawsuit in 2005 claiming Lance Armstrong had cheated Lance & Co. would have responded with a defamation suit, assembled an army of lawyers who would have humiliated and impoverished the plaintiff(s) into surrender even though the assertions of the plaintiff would be borne out in later years by the admission of Lance Armstrong.
So I can’t mock any plaintiffs’ claims. If memory serves me correctly Lance Armstrong effectively silenced by payment, threats of legal action leading to poverty and outright slander those who called into question the honesty of his wins. I can’t excuse bullies.
I have to agree, particularly regarding your last comment. Indeed, it’s my general disdain of bullies that was probably at the root of my issues with Mr. Armstrong in the first place.
No, I don’t think doping is, was or ever should be acceptable, but I took far more seriously the bullying of teammates, witnesses and critics. I think the Reasoned Decision shows that USADA did, too. Had Mr. Armstrong simply been a doper, I really doubt that this case would have progressed as it had.
You are correct in saying that any similar suit filed during the days of Armstrong’s ascent would have surely resulted in an immediate countersuit that would have crippled the plaintiffs and the lawyers involved. He used his money, his power and his lawyers to scare critics – and potential critics – into silence.
But, I still have a problem with the whole premise of suing someone for the contents of an autobiography. To begin, the whole concept of an autobiography is an exercise in self promotion. The author – with or without the help of a co-author – uses the opportunity to present himself or herself in the most positive fashion. If there is anywhere where the old rule of caveat emptor should apply it’s reading someone’s story about themselves. Come on.
I’ve read a number of them and my ingrained bullshit detector has been triggered on more than one occasion.
But seriously, what are the damages these “vexed, annoyed and injured” readers suffered? They paid out twenty bucks for what turned out to be a work of self-promoting fiction. They fell for it. Now, they know the truth. BFD. I would much rather see a lawsuit from riders whose careers had been cut short by bullying tactics (Christophe Bassons or Filippo Simeoni, to name just two) or even those who gave up on the sport because Armstrong and his ilk ruined their opportunities to compete fairly. What about folks like Emma O’Reilly, Betsy Andreu, Frankie Andreu, David Walsh? Those folks suffered real and quantifiable damages. But a cadre of now-disappointed, yellow-wristband-wearing fans, who got the wake-up call a little too late? Sorry. I don’t see the harm, beyond getting a reminder of their own gullibility.
This suit, these plaintiffs and these claims are being assembled for a hoped-for class action suit against Armstrong, the publishers and others. This is not about recovering every reader’s twenty bucks, but to allow a creative law firm the opportunity to score big on contingency fees. Let’s say they win a $10 million suit against the defendants A win would be that each affected reader would get a note telling them that they are a plaintiff in a successful class action suit and they will be eligible for, what, 10 bucks worth of credit toward books? Meanwhile, forty percent, plus expenses will go to the law firm. For individual plaintiffs, the outcome is essentially meaningless. For the lawyers, the case is a crap shoot, with at least reasonably good odds for a pay out at the end. This one ain’t about justice, my friends. It’s just business.
Obviously, as an attorney, I admire their pluck, but viewing it as a hypothetical juror, I doubt I’d go for a big damages award. Part of the onus is on the consumer to read with a critical eye, no?
Yeah, the good thing is that, if successful, the suit will result in the proceeds of Mr. Armstrong’s “unjust enrichment” being taken away. (Of course, if the publishers are held liable, perhaps they can, in turn, sue him for having misled them.) Personally, I’d like to see any money go to the people who suffered actual harm, not those who are merely “vexed, annoyed and injured” by reading what they could have guessed was bullshit.
Bottom line, though, I’m still really uncomfortable with that suit and what it means for anyone who writes anything that purports to be “non-fiction.”
Now, of greater interest is the Department of Justice’s decision to join Floyd Landis’ “whistleblower” suit. I’m intrigued. I do wonder about the damages claim, but I am going to spend time this week, working my way through the suit, supporting documents and briefs and speak with far more experienced attorneys about their thoughts.
Feel free to weigh in on this one, too. You can write your comments below, or send an e-mail to Charles@Pelkey.com.
Meanwhile, keep “The Deuce” in your mind. Let’s send this little dude some seriously good vibes, folks.
The Explainer is a weekly feature on Red Kite Prayer. If you have a question related to the sport of cycling, doping or the legal issues faced by cyclists of all stripes, feel free to send it directly to The Explainer at Charles@Pelkey.com. PLEASE NOTE: Understand that reading the information contained here does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Charles Pelkey. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained therein without first seeking the advice of qualified legal counsel licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
I laughed out loud, and it was one of those moments when I was alone, walking back from dropping the kids at school, and I hoped that none of my neighbors had seen me, walking along by myself, laughing like an idiot. I had been thinking about my “season,” i.e. that time of the year where I ride without the sorts of interruptions that keep me off the bike for weeks at a time, things like two feet of snow dropping in a single evening and shrinking all the road ways to high-speed hallways for impatient motorists.
When, I wondered to myself, would my season start?
And really, even thinking of what I do as having a season made me laugh out loud. I mean, who am I? I don’t race, so I don’t train except in that masochistic way that yields some level of spirit-illuminating suffering. I ride hill repeats occasionally, but only the way a penitent wears a hair shirt, to know better what a clean soul feels like.
It was just two weeks ago, as I was riding home in falling snow, that I even realized what’s good about the off-season, that yearly hiatus that comes unbidden in either December or January or February, or whenever the capriciousness of nature turns the endeavor of riding into a survival exercise. I was cursing the snow and thinking of Padraig wheeling along in the Southern California sun and thinking some not-altogether charitable thoughts, when suddenly I realized that being forced off the bike periodically is a good thing.
It keeps me from exacerbating repetitive use injuries to my knees. It allows my body to recover in myriad ways, some of which I’m sure I don’t even realize, and it forces me to pursue other activities that I enjoy but often eschew in favor of riding.
Despite our recent meteorological travails, some friends are riding 40 miles tomorrow in honor of someone’s 40th birthday. Given my current condition, and the current conditions, 40 miles would be a good ride, but family duties have me standing in a hockey instead, watching my boys excel at a sport I don’t even really understand.
I was thinking about missing that ride when I started laughing to myself like an idiot. “When,” I thought, “does my season get to start? And what even does it look like?”
This week’s Group Ride asks when YOUR season starts. Do you even think of your riding as having seasons? And what do those season’s consist of? Club rides? Races? Grand fondos? Or just a long series of solo rides, away from family and responsibilities and the cold, darkness of hockey rinks?
Image: Matt O’Keefe
I tell my kids, on the rare occasion that we pass an accident on the highway, not to crane their necks and press their small noses against the window to gawk at the mayhem. You’ll blind yourselves staring into the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles, I tell them, and your attention won’t help the injured. Be grateful that the road still hums under our tires, and that we are still, mercifully, on our way.
When I parted the blinds this morning, the sun was just splitting the clouds on the east side of Boston, the Hancock and Prudential Towers silhouetted beneath a purple and white cloud line. It reflected off the crust of still-white snow in the front yard and bathed the kitchen in brightness. The radio said it was cold out, but this is one of those sunny, crisp winter days that hints at Spring’s rebirth.
I stood on the shop floor yesterday and talked with Mike about the rides to come this year. Registration is open for a couple of the big gravel rides that cash in on end-of-summer fitness, and we talked about riding them together. He clued me into another private ride over some of that same terrain, 60 miles of New Hampshire hill climbing, and we made the kind of plans you make when it’s cold out and the summer is just an approaching dot on the horizon. It felt good.
This week’s Group Ride is about the good days to come. What events do you plan to ride? What trips are you going to take (with your bike)? Who will you ride with this year that you didn’t ride with last?
I sincerely hope to meet more of YOU this year. Padraig and I have spoken about connecting for any number of the larger fondos and off-road rides that have become highlights of the casual, US cycling season. When we know where we’ll be, we have every intention to connect with readers who will also be there.
Image: Matt O’Keefe
It’s like the classic trust fall, except facing forward, with your eyes open and your wheels spinning freely beneath you. And despite the eyes-wide nature of it, the consequences for misplaced trust are, perhaps, even more dire. I have not heard of corporate retreat attendees breaking collar bones or sustaining concussions. Larry from accounting skulking into an ambulance after Sheila failed to catch his plummeting girth.
Learning to ride in a paceline is one of the core skills of cycling on the road, and at some point, someone tells us how to do it. Stay close. Don’t overlap wheels. Rotate outwards off the front. Signal the potholes and oncoming bullshit. Don’t panic. The directions are simpler to follow than the ones that come with most build-yourself bookcases.
These are the basic rules, but what you find over time is that there are wheels you can ride and wheels you cannot. Mainly, I think, this is a matter of trust. There are people I trust to lead me, and those I don’t, and the difference isn’t always in the speed or quality of the rider.
I ride fairly often with my neighbor, Jon. Jon is relatively new to road cycling, but he is strong and fast, and he and I have a rapport on and off the bike that makes him one of my favorite cycling companions. We can roll along side-by-side, chatting, or we can put our heads down and cover ground, swapping turns on the front. This can be wordless, which is nice.
There are plenty of really experienced cyclists I won’t tuck in behind. I find myself drifting off their outside shoulder to see what’s coming, slotting back in, poking back out. It’s nervous and tiring and probably annoying for the rider behind me, but there are just some people I can’t get all the way to that trusting place with, no matter how I want to.
Life has these parallels.
Padraig and I were talking last week about the “simpatico” we’ve developed. As we ride RKP down the road, we trust each other to make the right decisions for day-to-day posting, including editorial decisions, images, etc. I accept his editing more readily than I do other editors, and he takes my feedback gracefully, and the end product is something we’re both happy with. This is not to say there aren’t better writers and editors out there. It’s just that we trust each other in that way. Our styles are compatible.
And that’s what it comes down to, for me, on the bike.
You can be fast and smooth, but if your riding style doesn’t mesh with mine, I’m probably going to spend a lot of time drifting off your shoulder. Or you can be a newbie, just coming to terms with moving quickly in close quarters, but if you intuit the road the way I do, put out all the cues I expect to see, I will sit blindly on your wheel all day (my pulls notwithstanding).
Riding someone else’s wheel asks a lot of you, like the classic trust fall of so many corporate bonding sessions. The paceline is where you find out who you can work with, and who you can’t, and I would wager that your regular riding buddies are all people whose wheels you can follow without too much thinking, that there are plenty of really nice people you don’t ride with, mainly because it’s too stressful. I have met old hands with tens-of-thousands of miles in their legs who are simply too blase on the road to follow with any sense of confidence.
There is an etiquette to riding in a group that ensures everyone’s safety, but there are things beyond that make you feel comfortable on the bike, on a wheel, at top speed. I have done the trust fall, a hotel conference room, poorly lit and badly carpeted, giggling nervously and then leaning back into the eager clutches of people whose names I don’t remember now. It was over in second.
The same transaction on the bike can last all day, your body hurtling through space, spanning distances, suspended above the ground by a whisper of carbon or metal, and your life in the hands of the people around you. These are bonding sessions, in the classic sense, and there is more to the game than simply falling backwards and hoping for the best. This is where you find out who you can trust.
Image: Matt O’Keefe
But my cycling, almost all of it, has more to do with whos than whats or whys.
There were two incredibly cool older kids, teenagers, in the neighborhood I first rode a bike in, Scott and Jamie. Both of them could ride a wheelie the length of our street. They built a crappy wooden bridge to ford the stream that separated our block from the small patch of woods behind, and the trails they cut in between the pines. They were early heroes. Everything they did, I wanted to do. They made bikes cool.
As an adult, I was shown the ropes of road riding by my friend Nancy, who had nearly supported herself, in the ’80s, by winning all the local crits and surviving on free bikes, ramen and broccoli. She’s the one who taught me to ride in a paceline, how to shift when climbing, how to dress, eat and suffer on a bike.
After years of riding and commuting and really integrating the bike into every aspect of my life, along came Padraig, who not only gave me the opportunity to write about bikes for a much larger audience, but also showed me how deep you can really go with cycling. He helped me jump into the industry. He became a friend and a mentor. And another inspiration.
Just yesterday, my friends Joe and Dan dragged me out for a pre-work ride in the freezing-ass-cold. It was a relatively short one, but still more than I had done for a few weeks, and it lifted my mood in that way that riding a bike with friends does.
These are just a few of my whos, the ones who spring readily to mind. This week’s Group Ride asks who are the characters who brought you into cycling? What did they say/do/show that jumped you into the gang? How did they inspire you?
What a week it’s been. Since USADA released its reasoned decision on the US Postal doping conspiracy, the flood of confessions that followed and the various spin off conflicts and conflagrations, my head has been a mess. My urge is always to find the way forward, to stay positive, but I have not found a good way to wrap my mind about what’s happened to our sport.
Then, of course, Padraig crashed his bike, which put a lot of the stuff on my mind into much better perspective. What a cadre of deluded pro athletes did in hotel rooms and shady medical clinics over the last decade-and-a-half is fascinating and depressing in equal measure, but I am part of something larger than that, something that starts with my closest friends and family and extends out to the larger cycling community. We launched the Beer Face Crash Relief effort to try to help Padraig out with medical expenses, and that just reinforced for me how massively positive cycling and the cycling community are for my life. I stopped thinking about doping and the dopes who doped.
When the idea of raising money first came up, my initial reaction was fear. Padraig and I are close. What if I couldn’t do it? What if I failed? And then, within 24 hours of the first conversation we’d raised every dime we needed. All we did was ask for the price of a beer, and you, our readers, drowned us in it.
This might be the single, biggest surprise of my cycling life, following closely behind being asked to write for RKP in the first place. That was like having my favorite band ask me to be their new guitar player. If you’d ever heard me play guitar, you’d know what a long shot that analogy really represents.
Of course, there have been other great surprises, finding out I could ride 100 miles in a day, finding out I could clear a section of single-track I’d failed to ride 100 times before, meeting people on steep hills and forming instant bonds simply by dint of our shared effort.
If you ride, it will come. That has been my experience.
This week’s Group Ride asks: What have been your biggest (and best) surprises from cycling? What have you learned about the world that you wouldn’t have dared hope was true before? What have been the gifts and how would you have gotten them, if not for the bike?
PLEASE READ BELOW
As you know, Patrick crashed his bike. In fact, he just about tore his bottom lip off, and 9 hours in the emergency room later, not to mention the prolonged attention of a plastic surgeon, he’s got bills that insurance won’t touch.
We, his friends, would like to help him get out from under the accident as quickly as possible, so he can focus on healing and also preparing for the imminent birth of his second child.
The man himself is massively reticent about this whole undertaking as he feels responsible for the crash. It was, after all, a solo effort. So, we would like to propose something slightly different.
We have all enjoyed RKP over the last few years. In a very real way, we’ve been on a long, hard ride together, cheering and celebrating our sport, brainstorming solutions for the problems it faces, and sharing expertise on the products we use. Patrick has been the ride leader, and given there is no entry fee for this ride, we’d like to suggest each of you buy our leader a beer. Figuratively of course.
Let’s say a beer is $5. We’d like to ask each of you to contribute that to the fund to cover Patrick’s medical costs. Just $5. You wouldn’t hesitate to buy a buddy a beer after a hard ride together. Let’s do this for Patrick now.
It looks like the ambulance ride, ER time and follow up with the surgeon come to $5,000, so we’re aiming to buy Patrick 1,000 beers. Help us make this happen.
Here are the particulars:
CURRENT TOTAL = $5000+ – Thank you!
We have reached our goal! In fact, we have surpassed it. And, in the interest of complete transparency, before we do anything further, we need to get a final tally of donations and a sharper total for expenses. This has all happened far more quickly than any of us imagined, so while we started out with the goal of raising $5,000, we figured we’d have time to more clearly outline expenses before we even began to approach that goal.
Your generosity has been sudden and overwhelming.
The last thing we want to do is move the goal posts for this project, so we are working quickly to gather what bills are available and to factor in the tax consequences of taking in this money. At the moment, it appears we have all the money we need to address the Brady family’s financial consequences from the crash.
Over the next days we will put out another post with all the details of the expenses and contributions. Thanks everybody who wrote in and/or donated. We are all humbled by the way our community has rallied to our aid.
As you may have heard, our friend and host Padraig, had a chance meeting with the ground the other day, a meeting that didn’t go so well, except that there happened to be a good plastic surgeon at the ER who put his face back together with some considerable skill. Oh, and of course, there were friends at the crash scene who made sure the ER happened and called the wife and did the things that friends do, which are simultaneously exactly what they’re supposed to do and yet also heroic and amazing.
The last time I was on the ground, I was mountain biking. The great irony is that I ended up sprawled across pavement. The trail left the woods, crossed a road and dove back into the woods. The catch was that the road edge had a slight lip on it that I quite inconveniently got my front wheel sideways to without making the subtle lift that would have made it the non-event it should have been. So there I was instead, laying in the road, windless from landing on my back. I rode on, but it hurt.
The time before that, I was riding a trail and saw a water bottle on the ground. I rolled up to it, leaned down low and plucked it off the ground. It was a brilliant maneuver until I jerked the handlebars trying to get back up straight and then of course I jackknifed the bike and catapulted myself face down into the dirt. No injury, except my pride.
When I heard about Padraig’s crash, I had a moment of visceral empathy. My last two crashes have been fairly innocuous, but I know from a lifetime on the bike what that moment is like. You are rolling along doing fine. There is no reason to expect anything but more of the same, but then you are on the ground. Sometimes it is a long, slow careening. Sometimes it is a sudden violent slam. Either way, there is that crystalline moment where all the important elements of control disappear.
Even before I heard the full story of Padraig’s crash, I knew what had happened, and it hurt me.
This week’s Group Ride asks the question: What was your last meeting with the ground like? Good, bad, indifferent? Did it change you or just make your friends laugh? Do you worry about crashing? Or do you just call it the price of admission? Spare a thought for Padraig as he sips at his smoothie (liquid diet only) and waits for his face to reassemble itself.