Beauty and Bikes

Bill Strickland, editor at large of Bicycling Magazine is soliciting short essays on beauty, cycling and the Giro at his blog this week. Here’s my contribution

It was at the end of an MS 150. For the last 100 yards of the course both sides were lined not with tifosi but with wheelchairs, walkers and people whose canes were propped against their legs so they could clap for me, just one of hundreds of people to ride down that route on that day. My thoughts 
through the last few miles had been of myself, of my achievements. I was back on the bike after a years long layoff and I’d ridden off 80-plus lbs. I grew faster and stronger every month. I exceeded every goal I set. I impressed myself
.
Then I rode down that street. That morning at the start/finish line I’d oohed and ahhhed along with the other riders at the red sky and the sun rising over the Trent River. High on adrenaline and loving my good legs I took long turns at the front of our paceline and as I rotated off appreciated the comfortable sites of “down east” North Carolina, bird filled marshes, snake filled creeks, flat, flat, flat farmland and small churches every other mile. It was good to be alive. It was.

Then I rode down that street. Not a racer, I’d never ridden by a crowd watching me, much less clapping, cheering, shaking cowbells. Yes the Zoncolan was epic. I’ll always admire Cadel Evans for wiping off the Rainbow Jersey before he crossed the finish line after he plowed through the strada
 bianca. Every rider who finished the 2010 Giro is worthy of respect for the way he rode his bicycle.

But as I rode down that street, I was humbled in a way I’ve never been humbled. Don’t clap for me for doing what it is I love to do. Look in the mirror every morning and clap for yourself for doing what it is you have to do. You are beautiful. Me and Cadel Evans, we just ride bicycles.

  • will1

    You want cynical, Jeff? I can do cynical. All those people clapping and cheering? They were hired by the MS Foundation to increase rider retention rates for next year.

    Seriously, it is a rather odd feeling to have people clapping and cheering for you when you’re just doing something you love. I got that experience earlier this month on my ride for the Red Cross. Like I said in my ride recap, I was leading our group through the city while carrying the US flag, and as I would pass people, they would get this surprised look on their faces, wondering what the heck was going on, then they’d see my flag and the Red Cross flag and then the group of cyclists behind me and they would start clapping and cheering. It was really odd and nice hearing the cheering start up, grow louder, then fade in the distance as I rode on. And all for having one of the most enjoyable vacations of my life.