22 May 2012

You are looking good

The things American fans say 

Last Sunday I was fortunate to see the finish of Stage 8 of the Amgen Tour of California as a guest in the Rabobank VIP tent at the finish line in Los Angeles. It was a wonderful experience where I had a nice chat between circuit laps with the Rabobank team Doctor Dion van Bommel. I had one question for him, “Okay,” I started, “I thought of your team as I was driving in my car from Bakersfield to Palmdale through the desert, I wanted to know - did you think of Cowboys and Indians when you looked out on that big desert?” Delighted with the observation, Dion smiled, looked me in the eyes and said, “Oh yes, we all said, “We could put a horse out on this road right here and it would be just like in the western movies.'” 
Hwy 138 east of Palmdale "Cycling through the desert of California"  
Photo tweeted by
Dion van Bommel, Rabobank team physician
Cowboy Country

Miles and miles of wide-open desert stretched between Stages 5 and 6 of the Amgen Tour of California last week, it may appear barren to us Americans, but to the Europeans visiting this vast open State it was quintessential American West. Riders visiting from Europe, South America, and Australia notice everything around them as new and different, just as we do when we travel abroad. I am guessing a few team radios landed upon, and stayed on, a country and western station while driving across central California last week.

Those double yellow lines in the center of our roads are not a familiar sight to French or Italians drivers, their roads are divided by white lines. Neither are the branded products in our grocery stores familiar items, or our menus with enormous food portions, watered-down coffee, big pick-up trucks, billboard roadside signs, hotels with shampoo and conditioner samples and cookies upon check-in, so much must seem odd to them. Even our “have a nice day,” parting words must feel like they are in a Hollywood movie.

The European riders enjoy coming here to race and ride. Maarten Tjallingii mentioned to my sister-in-law and me that he would like to return on vacation with his family. A number of the other riders mentioned how they liked the hotels and food. And then … there are the American fans. We are certainly unique. We cheer for the last guy as we do for the first guy, shouting out “good job!” when clearly the rider is falling off the back. But as my brother Mike says, “We are the country of little league soccer where every kid gets a medal.”

Careful what you say, a rider could be listening

The riders can hear what we say to them as they pass by, and we do not need to be screaming for them to hear. Yesterday a miffed Mark Cavendish tweeted from the Giro about the fan he heard say "ooh, Cav is in trouble!" 

Rabobank Team Physician Dion van Bommel told me a funny story relayed to him from Robert Gesink (NED) after Gesink's brutal climb for the win up Mt Baldy in Stage 7. Robert told the Team Doctor, “This fan yelled out “Looking good” - I was suffering! I could not have been looking good,” Robert said. Together Robert and the doctor chuckled in amazement at the silliness of the American fan. That fan could have been me, maybe that fan was you?

Alright which one of you said Robert was looking good? Because he denies it.
Photo © by PedalDancer.com
“Looking Good !”
I might be going out on a limb here, but my guess is looking good and feeling bad are about as likely of a combination on a bike as looking bad and feeling good. These states tend to go together good=good, bad=bad. When you are racing over 10-22% grade roads on a bike you will quickly go into zone bad=bad. We might need Robert Gesink to confirm his state of being on Mt Baldy for us, or we could just go out and ride Mt Baldy ourselves and confirm my simple theory.

I know it was the definite state of being me on Mt Baldy. When I told Dion the team Doctor that I had ridden Mt Baldy myself the day before, his one word response was, "Suffering?" "Yes suffering," I concurred.

But hey, keep those positive comments coming, it is much better for a rider to hear our typical American cheers of  “Looking Good,” “Good job,” “You are almost there,” than it is for any rider to hear “Man he looks like he’s not going to make it.” They can hear you remember!
The sunglasses can't quite hide the pain  Photo © by PedalDancer.com/Willie Reichenstein
It is understandable to look like this  Photo © by PedalDancer.com
In the hurt locker of pain on Mt Baldy   Photo © by PedalDancer.com
Collective suffering on Mt Baldy  Photo © by PedalDancer.com/Willie Reichenstein
"Hey that fan said I wasn't looking good"   Photo © by PedalDancer.com/Willie Reichenstein
Jens Voigt never disappoints in showing the fans his job is a tough one   
Photo © by PedalDancer.com/Willie Reichenstein
“Looking Goooooooooooood!”
Some of my favorite fan comments I heard emanating from the roadside while riding my own bike to the top of Mt Baldy last Saturday were, “What can I say I got a downhill body,” or "I only ring my bell for people who sweat," or “Come on guys it’s time to throw the cat in with the pigeons”. Now you'd think that laughter would be a good way to regulate my breathing but by that point at nearly 5km to go to the top of the climb my elevated heart rate was overriding all systems. I was in need of encouragement, and encouragement I got.

My next favorite comment was “Do you want a push?” This comment I used a solid 3 times after stopping to take photos on the accent (which was totally an excuse to stop). Shortly after my switchback pushes, a cyclist on a single-speed came by me giving a good 25 pedal strokes before nearly falling over onto the road after receiving his own push. The fans along the road cheered him loudly, then one fan said to another across the road, “yeah I only had one gear coming up here too – my last one,” yuc-yuc.
Yes please may I have a another (push)!   Photo © by PedalDancer.com
Fans pre-race on Mt Baldy - you will not be alone in your suffering   
Photo © by PedalDancer.com
Much of the fun of riding up a stage as a fan are the sights along the road and the fun comments from fellow fans. Try it sometime – hopefully all the comments you hear will be entertaining and enthusiastic. If you are in America, your chances are good that they will be, if not, find a horse.
ssssshhhhh they are coming ... they can hear you  Photo © by PedalDancer.com
Wait a minute ... is Chris Horner smiling ???, There is no smiling in cycling!
Photo © by PedalDancer.com/Willie Reichenstein
Chris Horner was smiling on Mt Baldy!   Photo © by PedalDancer.com/Willie Reichenstein

Alright everyone - back on your bike, and this time do it with a smile, and remember to look good.   
Photo © by PedalDancer.com/Willie Reichenstein