The garbage needs to go out. The bag from the kitchen is standard issue. The coffee grounds that go there every morning serve to mask the other scents maturing within. The diaper pail upstairs is another issue. Dealing with it requires endurance and fortitude. I never hoist the plastic within, smile with satisfaction at the olfactory feast that bursts forth and dance down the stairs with it, whistling a jaunty tune. It is a task I would gladly pass off on someone else, but then, that’s my life.
Road Racing World Champion Cadel Evans has a broken elbow. His job, whether he likes it or not, sometimes entails being spilled onto pavement at high speed wearing clothing closely approximating a rainbow-colored body sock. This falling on abrasive surfaces while wearing pajamas is unpleasant. A rider almost never hits the deck, pops up smiling and then goes on his merry way. Cadel didn’t enjoy breaking his elbow, I’d wager. It is something he would gladly have passed off on someone else, but then, that’s his life.
My life includes such joys as clearing the dirt and debris from the filter on the sump pump. That pump, with its busted switch, keeps my garage and basement from flooding in a heavy rain. My life requires me to ride a 12% grade to get home from work each evening. There is no soigneur to greet me just over the line. There is no massage awaiting me at the end of my day.
As a cycling fan and a rider, I am constantly measuring myself against the titans of the sport. How much faster would the World Champ climb that steep hill that leads to my house? How much more suffering can he endure than I can? How does his ability to persist inspire and inform my own ability to continue doing the things that I don’t want to do?
We all have our grand tours to ride. Mine doesn’t include the Col de la Madeleine. It doesn’t require riding 230kms with a broken elbow. It does, however, mean battling the demons within the diaper pail and clearing the sump pump of dead spiders and pine needles.
And when I think of the challenge of surmounting Alpen cols, I have to believe that what makes poor, luckless Cadel an occasional champion is his ability to continue to perform the tasks that his life requires of him. What pushes me up life’s GC is my ability to deal with the garbage and the sump pump, to keep my lawn mowed and continue showing up for long, grueling conference calls with unreasonable clients.
I will probably never find a physical equivalency with the riders of the pro peloton, but if I step back a bit and look at their lives, not as operatic dramas, but as simple lives with jobs to do and responsibilities to attend to, then I can see that I’m a lot like Cadel Evans.
Forgetting the fact that no one is going to pay me to race a bicycle, I don’t know that I would trade places with the World Champ. I might prefer the noisome stench of my youngest son’s soiled nappies to the difficulty of riding all day long with a broken bone. Regardless, this is my life. It is challenging. Some days I meet the challenge. Some days I’m off the back. Just like Cadel.
The one thing we have in common is that, every night when I get home, I get a kiss on the cheek from a pretty girl and the opportunity to try to do it all a little better the next day.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
If you’ve raced bicycles before then you’ve probably had the experience of multiple near misses at a race before scoring the big V. In this, you have something in common with Cadel Evans. Gloat now. Right now. You, I and the rest of the mortal world won’t get too many chances to share something in common with the current World Champion beyond such basics as peeing standing up (apologies to the women readers). With three top-10 finishes to his credit he knew how the final kilometer could go wrong even for the very strongest of riders.
Patience isn’t a word that anyone ever uses in conjunction with a Spring Classic. Appropriate tags for a Spring Classic are ‘attack,’ ‘limit,’ ‘suffer,’ ‘blow up’ and ‘head down.’ And that’s where Evans’ tactical savvy and experience paid off for him today.
And while not much has been said, Chris Horner delivered another great ride to finish seventh, the second-best performance by an American at the race. Not bad for 38.
There were a number of riders who looked strong, strong enough to win the day. And that Caisse d’Epargne didn’t take the day was perhaps a bit of a surprise for them.
Valverde rode like it ought to be his race. Unfortunately, he was the only person thinking that.
Evans has often been criticized for not riding aggressively enough to win more races. And maybe he has lacked the killer instinct at times. The 2010 Fleche-Wallonne begs a question.
Did winning a World Championship actually teach Evans an important lesson about how to win? Even though the most common criticism is that he never seemed to attack, the great secret of Fleche-Wallonne is to wait to attack, to wait until you would have lost any other race. Just ask Alberto Contador.
With 500 meters to go Contador looked to have it in the bag. Unfortunately, our TVs are still not equipped with Sony’s patented “Lactic-acid-ometer” to show us just how close to blowing a rider really is. Of course, the difference between insanely hard and completely done is about four watts.
The images are in sequence and encompass only the final trip up the Mur de Huy. It’s amazing to watch how short a distance Evans needs to close the gap to Contador and Igor Anton, all the while holding off Joaquim Rodriguez.
Alternate theory: Evans is still getting it wrong, but now he’s just getting the curse of the rainbow jersey wrong and he’s winning instead of losing. Imagine the shock Contador experienced when he noticed the rider passing him was Evans.
Images: John Pierce, Photosport International.