Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pro Cycling Starts to Look Better and Better

So after just one week of perusing the USA Today, which I really only do while traveling abroad, I see headlines about Meta World Cheap Shot, NFL suicides after years of on-the-job injuries being ignored, and today even police-escorted Cannonball Runs to Atlantic City. Don't get me wrong, cycling has its elephant in the room, yet I'm inclined and hopeful to say that the sport is cleaning itself up.

I'll still remember when my no-longer creamsickle Bucs won the Super Bowl after years of suffering. It was a sporting moment that I'll never forget. 

But I also won't forget the anticipation I had standing on a billboard in Liege watching Nibali gain 42 seconds on the chasing bunch. It was 2007 when Cannondale last won LBL (by Di Luca, who ended up with his own sanction later on) and I could think of no better outcome than Niblet's winning the only classic that I showed my face at this year. He represents the future of Italian cycling like no other in recent times. The heartbreak when he was caught and passed with just over a km to go was unbearable. The tears in the eyes of usually-macho Italian team staffers said it all after the race.

We all have our sporting heroes, I'm just lucky enough to work with mine and support their endeavors. I just finished reading Team 7-Eleven on this trip, and seemingly found myself surrounded by the characters that made US cycling history and set me off on this journey. First, I bump into Ron Keifel at Sea Otter, followed by an encounter with Jim Ochowicz at the team presentation in Liege. I had to thank both of them for their pioneering efforts. Following that, I had a quick conversation with Steve Bauer and for some reason am drawn to a small restaurant near Bergamo to relive those post-Giro celebrations of the first US team to inspire my Italian-centric love of racing.

This week, I may have the chance to meet my first cycling hero. Those following closely on Twitter know who he is. I'll be sure to report back. It is not the equivalent of meeting Lee Roy Selmon. No, it goes far beyond that. For all the Bassos, Nibalis, Sagans and Kings that I am lucky to call friends, it's the cycling superstars of my youth that leave me starstruck. Back when we didn't know what our heroes ate for breakfast or what time they got a massage... or when their convoy made it to Atlantic City?!? Yeah, pro cycling is looking better and better every day!

1 comment:

  1. Larry was pounding on the table while watching on RAI3 here in Sicily, "VAI Enzo!" but it didn't help. But we like Nibali too, not because of the bike he rides or the groupset he uses but because he's a TRIER...a guy who tries to win rather than racing to not lose, just like in Lombardia in 2011 when we were there. Your piece made ol' Larry break into a smile, thanks!