Confessions of a Cycling Fan

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This email got me thinking about my relationship to cycling as a fan and rider.

I have followed professional cycling for decades or since Greg LeMond won his first Tour de France. I have spent much of my precious time and resources as an avid fan in Italy, France, England California and Australia. When the UCI ejected Peter Sagan from the Tour de France last July, my fan heart was broken.

I never thought Lance Armstrong was clean because I saw an interview with Greg LeMond talking about getting dropped by riders who the year before were middling racers. Then he knew the drugs were winning. Lance was up among the elite riders who were winning and they were getting caught doping. My assumption was that he was better at not getting caught. So I left some room for being wrong and cheered Columbia High Road and other riders on. Besides he was a bully, that was clear without a urine sample.

Somehow I survived those wretched years when the press broke a new drug scandal every year. I remember once I was traveling in Africa and spent some time with a German couple. He was a sports writer and the German press had just made a big deal about not televising or covering the Tour de France because of the drugs. I couldn’t understand how you could just stop caring. I was still in the throes of attraction to cycling.

Now I understand. Sometimes the corruption of the officials and the lack of fair play doesn’t just knock the wind out of you, it hits you with such a punch you just don’t give a flying fig anymore. I have huge respect for Peter Sagan. His cycling skills are unparalleled today. And his attitude is super fun and eccentric. He brings excitement to the sport. Oh, and he’s won the world championship 3 years in a row. He was on track to win the green jersey again, when his crash with Mark Cavendish drew the ire of race officials. They didn’t just relegate him for that stage (like they did Mark Cavendish when he had a similar crash back in the day), but ejected him from the race. Later the UCI dropped the disqualification, as if that does anything to erase the stupidity of the first decision.

The rest of the season I followed the Australian team and their excellent videos on social media. Orica Bike Exchange’s Backstage Pass was awesome. I stopped using my NBC Gold Pass to watch races. Still I wondered if I’d go back to feeling good as a fan after a break.

Then I received this email about Peter Sagan’s Fondos in California. Nope. I have a precedence. After many years as a USC football fan, I read about the concussions, then I took my family to a home game and the pre-game videos of greatest “hits” made me sick. Haven’t watched a game since. The Olympics, well who hasn’t lost faith in the Olympics? The latest in scandals is the Russians’ systematic doping. But that has been going my whole life. See the documentary Icarus on Netflix for a refresher.

I am sad to announce my heart break was finally irrevocable. I am a former cycling fan.

Give Curling a Push in Central Otago, New Zealand

Indoor Curling Rink in Naseby

Indoor Curling Rink in Naseby

Curling is the winter olympic sport that inspires both fascination and ridicule. Naseby in Central Otago boasts the only Olympic standard indoor curling rink in the southern hemisphere.

Why you may ask? Because Central Otago was settled by Scottish immigrants in the 1840s and they brought their curling stones and love of the sport with them. Most winters the lakes freeze over sufficient to send out the call and assemble teams for a Bonspiel.

The rink provides these rubber covers for your shoes to enable you to walk safely on the ice. No special equipment needed. Dress warmly!

The rink provides these rubber covers for your shoes to enable you to walk safely on the ice. No special equipment needed. Dress warmly!

If you book a tour with Off the Rails, Nick ensures that you enjoy an evening lesson and curling session. If you are unassociated with a tour you may book your own session.

The rules of the game are similar to bowls, kube, or bocce ball. You can throw the stone with your arm or you can push it with a stick. Your teammates can use the broom to sweep the ice and encourage your stone to reach the target. Your opponents can use the broom to sweep the ice and keep the stone moving past the target. I joined some other visitors for a lot of practice and a lot of fun.

If your back is stiff or sore, use the stick to push the stone.

If your back is stiff or sore, use the stick to push the stone.

Afterward we ate dinner at the Ancient Briton pub and restaurant. After a drink at the bar and an interesting conversation with some locals and the Publican, we enjoyed generous portions of a hearty meal not unlike an American Thanksgiving with pork, steak or lamb instead of turkey, and if you are not careful with the same stuffed feeling.

Excellent food and a wide selection of wine, beer and spirits are available.

Excellent food and a wide selection of wine, beer and spirits are available. Plenty of places to dine by the fire.

The evening was a terrific way to unwind after Day Three of cycling. Just a few short kilometers the next day and the Rail Trail adventure is complete. Feeling a touch melancholy.