Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Fondly Remembering Cycling

The Tour de France started a few days ago. As I write this, American Lance Armstrong is 6th in the GC (for you cognoscente).

I was a fan of bike racing so long ago, it's not even funny. Example: I had the issue of Velo News that announced Greg LeMond was going to France to ride with Bernard Hinault's Renault team. Example: I own a copy of a Bud Greenspan's documentary on Eddy Merckx, cycling legend.

I recall being amazed at the movie Breaking Away. I read Sam Abt's Tour de France stories in the NY Times, because when I started to follow the Tour, it wasn't on network TV (today it's covered daily on The Outdoor Life Network).

All this was in the early eighties, during my teen-age years.

I had log books detailing all of my riding. I dreamed of becoming a racer. Despite my fervent interest in bike racing, I only competed in one race, and on that rainy day, I got a flat. It didn't stop me from attending races though, and the highlight of all this interest was watching a criterium near Central Park in New York City. Greg LeMond raced that day, and when he finished, I got his autograph.

I trained with a pack of boys (Jose, Shawn, Dave) sharing the same innocent dreams. We rode hard and fast up and down Bayonne Park, and stalked all the bike stores, driving the owners nuts with our demands to see Campagnolo bike parts. As boys, we didn't own bike shorts, or real cycling jerseys. Whenever we saw "a real rider" wearing these clothes, we'd watch them warily, wondering just how fast could they go.

Like most boy-hood interests, this one faded away. By the time Greg LeMond won his second Tour de France, cycling had already left my life. Sometime before college (1986), I got into an accident: I looked down to shift, and next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground, having run into the suddenly-stopped car in front of me. My bike (Panasonic DX-2000) was broken beyond repair, and on a "spare" bike, it was hard to go fast.

Fast forward to today: I do own a dusty racing bike, bought with practically my first paycheck out of college, but I never rode with the same fervor like I did. In fact, I hardly ride at all. Golf has filled the places in my heart where bike racing used to live. I used to be able to recite the winners of the Tour de France, and the years when Merckx and Anquetil won their five Tours, but now I look that up, like everyone else.

"On va! Allez allez!", people would write, on the roads the Tour de France riders would race over. I have gone, but I fondly remember.

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