My month-long absence here hasn’t been intentional. Rumors of my possible abduction by aliens have been exaggerated. In truth I’ve simply been struggling with some of life’s essential questions. OK, maybe not essential, to you.
Am I Canadian?
I went to both Quebec City and Montreal last month to settle an internal debate that’s been raging ever since I made friends with Sven Tuft and Ryder Hesjedal, namely, am I just a little bit Canadian? You can imagine the internal conflict this question causes for a guy who’s typically referred to as Capt. America. I dig Canadians, find them down-to-earth, refreshingly mellow, considerate to an extreme, and comfortable with who they are. It’s been a very long time since I’ve stepped on the soil north of the border so I was a bit apprehensive upon arrival. Would it be as I remembered it and as Ryder and Sven described it?
There were two races on the schedule with the Quebec City Gran Prix going off first. I arrived into Quebec, one of the oldest cities in North America, to find our accommodations to be truly spectacular. Truly amazing city. Cool people and festive atmosphere. The team was staying in an awesome chateau and I immediately felt at home. Tommy D, Ryder and I hit the bike path the day before the race to stretch our legs, explore the surroundings, visit a few waterfalls and recon the course. The course looked daunting and there really wasn’t much to be said between us. The course suited Gilbert and he was coming to win and little was going to stand in his way. Ryder broke off to do a solo press conference while TD and I went to do some shopping for the kids. The next day we saw Gilbert dominate.
We hopped a train for a three hour ride to Montreal. The train is not your typical transfer vehicle but it was a novel change of pace. Upon arrival we jumped on the bikes and immediately felt the vibe of a seemingly young and hip city. Our mood was good and we were ready to take on another challenge. Then we rode the course and shit ourselves. The Montreal race would be even harder, the course even more demanding than Quebec. At the team meeting we knew we had to make an early move to have any chance. Get away at the start and stay away. So I made the early selection of what seemed like an 8 man group. We worked hard but eventually the peloton rejoined and it was only those that could follow every move that would have any chance. In the end it was a special day for Rui Costa of Movistar.
Do I Belong at Interbike?
Ryder and I reconnected shortly after the very difficult Gran Prix Cycliste series in Canada in a city that has to be the polar opposite of the spirited and cultured Quebec and Montreal. Vegas. Slightly wounded we cautiously dropped ourselves into a thankfully welcoming and hospitable crowd at the bike industry’s annual circus event, Interbike. I never take my sport, profession, ability or popularity for granted. I’m not particularly well-built for the social scene so I step into these events most times with some hesitation. But after meet & greet and autograph sessions at the booths of Castelli, Rotor, Camelback. LeMond and of course Garmin, I felt especially appreciative and appreciated. I also got to spend some quality time with the good folks that handle the DZ NUTZ product line. And I got to reconnect with my good buddy George. We shared a coffee together and had the enjoyable chance to catch up. In the end I left Vegas knowing that for all of the conflicts that circle cycling, the truth is, the vast majority of the people that work within the bike industry are kind, forward-thinking, passionate people. I’m happy when I’m able to be among them.
Can I Really Drive?
I’m a film fan and my tastes typically skew toward the unusual. In the off-season I try to see a few movies in the theater because during the race year its rarely possible. I’d been anxious to see Ryan Gosling in DRIVE. A friend who had seen the film suggested that maybe Gosling’s severely understated but excessively cool portrayal of a conflicted but gifted driver reminded him of me. Well after seeing the film I think its a compliment. I loved the pacing, the acting and the music. I was intrigued by the story but shocked by the graphic violence, which I was not expecting. Thankfully, I did not have my wife with me. But the film left a strong impression on me and many scenes played in my head for days.
Son, Can You Drift?
I’m confident behind the wheel, but I knew I had to elevate Waylon, my 3 year olds, game. Every parent has their techniques for building confidence while having fun with their kids. My techniques may not be found in any best-selling parenting books but they’re typically effective. For instance, I excitedly bought the Razor Rip-Rider 360, assembled it in secret, down-loaded the soundtrack to the film DRIVE, and invited my boy into the garage. In the center of a clean floor, under a spotlight, sat the Razor Rip-Rider like some trophy steed at Interbike. My young son’s eyes glowed like saucers until he sat on it and found that his feet were not even close to touching the pedals. Thinking fast as his eyes welled up I taped yoga blocks onto the bottom of his bright colored Crocs. That didn’t work. My patient wife watching from a safe distance finally interjected, “why don’t we turn down the music, kill the spotlight and save the bike for when he gets a little older.” I had a another idea. I would maintain Waylon’s enthusiasm for his future bike by riding it myself, showing him what it can do, and just how cool it is for his dad to drift through a series of figure 8′s. Now I can assure you that on the polished epoxy floor of an empty 3 car garage the Razor Rip-Rider is no longer simply a toy for the children.
Dexter, is That You?
OZ, Justified, Dexter…I may have mentioned that my tastes skew toward the unusual. I’ve been with Dexter since the first season. We’ve had our ups and downs but we’ve always managed to find a way to reconnect. The new season (6) had its premiere last Sunday and it did not disappoint. The appeal of a vigilante has always been strong for me, and who wouldn’t want to right some wrong from high school. I won’t give anything away, in case you haven’t seen it yet and plan too. Bt I will say that it looks like another winning season for one of TV’s most unusual dramas.
What’s the Cargo in my Head?
I’ve written before about my new cargo bike but I’m back again to say it’s a dream machine. Mine has a little power assist via an electric motor which is rather handy since I live in a hilly area. I love to load the boys onto the two rear child seats and simply cruise the neighborhood. So much of my riding is with purpose: mileage, watts, speed, heart rate, time, etc. It’s unbelievably refreshing to simply cruise with the boys, explore, move slowly without great purpose, wander and day dream. I hear the boys giggling and laughing behind me, their expressions curious and wild, their mind firing and their small hearts pumping with a life-affirming flow of joyfulness. The natural contrast from race day to these casual days is both remarkable and strangely liberating.
You Can Fix That?
Actually I can’t. The off-season is full of well intentioned house projects from the light remodeling to the picture hanging, but I’ll admit here to a serious lack of skills. Mind you, I have the tools. In fact, I enjoy buying tools with an unusual relish for someone who doesn’t know how to use them. I simply find the notion that I own them to be of some real comfort. A well-stocked tool box makes me feel more complete. Any discomfort comes from the actual use of them. But I have to assure you that when I’m at the store and the new tool is in my hand I can strike a particularly strong pose of confidence and know-how. I’ll sometime linger with a tool, handle it more than necessary, measure its weight and balance, before picking up another, to do essentially the same thing. At the register I unintentionally project skills I surely don’t have all the while hopeful that the cashier is unaware of my incompetence. Back at home, new tool in hand, I’m sometimes asked by my wife, “what are you going to do with that?” to which I inevitably answer, “I’m not really sure.”
Can I Be in the Moment?
I recently bought a Gibbon Slackline (www.gibbonslacklines.com) and stretched it from tree to tree across my yard. It wasn’t too long ago that I wasn’t even familiar with slacklining but it seems to be something quite extraordinary and intriguing to me. The explanation from the Gibbon site is that “slacklining is the act of balancing along a narrow, flexible piece of webbing usually low to the ground.” I eagerly got onto my new slackline, kids at a safe distance, and fully expected to walk along the narrow band suspended several feet above the ground. I focused on being in the moment, my wife and kids whispering soft encouragement, and I took my first step…then another…then another. With a proud smile I turned my head toward them, suddenly losing my balance, slipping off, my feet stabilizing my fall on both sides of the line just as it snapped upward with unexpected force right into my balls sending me skyward with a near perfect imitation of a screeching owl. I landed on my side cupping my jewelry and lay on the ground reeling in unfortunate pain as my wife calmly asked what the return policy was.
Do I Even Tri?
I’ve often been asked if I’ve ever done a Triathlon and always reply with some explanation that includes how much I’m looking forward to it, one day. Well my first opportunity presented itself a few weeks ago as I was invited to join the Goo Goo Dolls relay team at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon (www.nauticamalibutri.com). Having never competed before I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, and certainly didn’t know that these triathlon’s are early morning events. Really early. I was up at 4:00am and Googled the earliest opening Starbucks in my area because I was too out of it to even make coffee. I’m not sure I really want to be the first customer of the day at Starbucks and I didn’t feel like they were entirely happy to see me around 4:30am. I arrived at the race course and was thrilled to see that the TV Show The Office would have a team competing in the celebrity relay division as well. I thought it was rather cool that I would be racing against Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson). I asked my teammates how seriously we were taking this and was told the goal was to win. Well OK…stupid question. We gave it our best shot. I put myself at near maximum effort on the bike and we beat the team from The Office as well as the very fast guys from the TV show Franklin & Bash. But glory was not be ours as we took 2nd on the day after the swim, bike and run, losing to the Glades team. I enjoyed the heck out of myself, thanks for having me guys, and look forward to competing once again.
Can You Breathe?
The Tour of Beijing is underway. I’m safely reading about it in between slackline, Razor and cargo bike adventures. My good buddy David Millar tweeted a photo of the air quality in the city. Hmmm, looks serious. Any complaints about LA smog are greatly exaggerated when compared to Beijing. But Millar is a soldier and spits in the face of bad air. In a grueling 11 kilometer time trial he would podium, taking 2nd to HTC’s Tony Martin. In David’s hotel room was a gas mask. For real. Had I been at the race there’s little doubt I would have been wearing it on the bike.
Do I Gran Fondo?
Looking forward to the first of many Gran Fondo’s. I’ll be up in central California in the beautiful town of San Luis Obispo for the SLO Gran Fondo (www.slogranfondo.com) next week. I hope you’ll consider coming out and riding with me and what looks to be a fun course, a great organizing crew, and a great cause: Bike for Babies (promoting healthy pregnancies and deliveries). I hope you can join me and what I’m sure will be hundreds of other enthusiastic cyclists.