Guest Post – Baroudeur Rouleur

26 Nov

Dear Readers -

My previous post “Impetus” sparked conversation between myself and friend/teammate Lars.  He wrote this following my post, and frankly, I wish I had written some of these insights.  Without further ado, meet Larson Schindler, aka Diesel, aka Bacon Schindler (Strava), aka the faceless rider.

Editor’s NoteRouleur is French for wheeler , someone who can ride all day over rolling terrain, and Baroudeur is French for valiant fighter; taken together, a rider daring enough to go on a suicidal solo effort (Daily Peloton’s Cycling Dictionary).

LA, dusty and bloody, 2010 Tdf, Stage 3.
Joel Saget/AP, CS Monitor, July 6th, 2010.

 

Baroudeur Rouleur

By Larson Schlinder

When bullied by classmates, through repetition a mold is formed and it becomes a hard one to break.  He suffered from a broken heart and misguided soul because his father abandoned him at very young and impressionable age.  I tell myself that he got into cycling because he became recluse and took comfort in sport.  It was a means to temporarily alleviate the pain and suffering.  That was the predominant, overriding reason why he did what he did.  Initially it was not to seek fame and fortune, nor to satiate the appetite for winning.  The reasons were pure and well-intentioned.

The unraveling of the dynasty has not been a particularly painful nor surprising one, for me at least.  I have been more interested in the notion of ‘public reaction’ and ‘fallout’.  Essentially, how people went from being staunch yellow-bracelet wearing supporters to outspoken critics and crybabies.  It has taught me an invaluable lesson on the fickle matter of human nature.  I have learned that a good majority of critics tend to be the most hypocritical.  I have learned that we as a society sensationalize and therefore place greater emphasis and emotional effort on our fallen sports heroes than we do with our nation’s corrupt leaders.  I have learned that we suffer from a selective memory, and there is direct correlation in those who have benefitted the most and have also now ostracized him the most.  I could go on but it’s exhausting and perhaps a bit aimless; citing all the flaws of people’s premeditated resentment.

I don’t lay awake at night as fallout reaches full-blown proportions or because of shattered dreams of cycling’s uncompromised innocence.  Nor am I desensitized or obtuse to cycling’s “troubles” or “challenges” but I don’t despair either.  It’s easier to criticize and maim the image of a fallen hero than to take the opportunity to gain some introspection; perhaps not be so quick to place someone on a pedestal, or pour one’s entire emotional capacities into what they consider or perceive to be “hero” material.  Maybe it is time to recite our own idiosyncratic existence and our greater imperfections.  I for one know that if it would not be for my friends’ ‘forgiveness’ and ‘compassion’ I would be destined to die a lonely soul; a complete deconstruction of life precipitated by impulse and stupidity.

I’d rather empathize with the man; show some compassion and accept his fatal flaws as being no different than those residing deeply inside of me, in all of us.  That’s what makes us human; showing dignity to someone beaten to a pulp from all ends.  I think of his comeback and how he inspired me to buy my first road bike.  How he animated a race and therefore made watching Tour de France repeats on Versus for hours on end a worthwhile endeavor.  I am grateful for what he has helped me achieve.

Cycling has given me so much.  I think of the fitness gained through a training regimen which at least in theory, rivals those of many professional athletes.  I take great pleasure in cycling because of its uncomplicated, undefined and unpretentious nature.  I happily accept the inherent risks associated with this sport including broken collarbones and road rash because the benefits far outweigh the negatives.  I think of my friends and family; their unwavering loyalty and support for my spandex-wearing ways.  Without cycling there would be such a huge void in my life.

Impetus

5 Nov

The first live bike race I saw, at least that I remember, was the Great Downer Avenue Bike Race towards the end of July of 2007.  My parents were visiting Milwaukee for the weekend, and I wanted to check it out, so I managed to talk my family into coming along to watch.  The Downer Ave. race was a 0.8 mile criterium, and part of International Cycling Superweek – an annual race series held in July, with a variety of crits and road races in the SE Wisconsin/Chicagoland area.  The races draw amateur and pro riders from all over the country to take part in the almost two and half week event.

After walking the home stretch of Downer Ave., my dad and I picked out a spot along the wall to see all the pro men riders grouped at the starting line.  I guessed there were at least 75-100 riders there, though I don’t know.  After some introductions and other formalities, the riders took off down the street and turned right around the corner.  We waited, and before long the mass of riders came around the corner at the other end of the street, charging back up towards the finish.  The peloton flashed past us with a rushing draft sweeping along behind.  I had never realized how fast racers went, nor that the peloton literally broke through the air and pulled it along in a slipstream.  I was suddenly captivated.  They only had to go by once or twice more before I was sure I had to try this racing thing out myself.  I can’t say whether it was the speed, the cornering, or simply a large mass of road bikes working together, something about this struck a chord in me.

We enjoyed the July evening, not too hot with a cooling breeze coming off Lake Michigan just east of the neighborhood we were in.  The race progressed, and a break soon formed.  The group kept accelerating away from the peloton, even though they only had about six riders in the group.  One of the riders in the break was easily more identifiable than the others, wearing a Rock Racing kit, tattooed all over.  As the laps ticked by the lead group, pulled along by the tattooed rider, kept widening their margin.

Leogrande in action for Rock Racing

Eventually we decided to go get some dinner at a pizza place nearby on Oakland Ave.  When we left the race, the lead group seemed to have the race under control.  The next day I read in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that the tattooed rider, Kayle Leogrande, did indeed win.  The paper also had a short feature on him since he had raced strongly for the series.  He was a former junior national champion, leaving the sport behind to start a family and build the business of his tattoo studio.  Eventually he realized he was out of shape and felt something was missing.  After getting back on a bike, he soon was up to speed again, and not long after, back in the racing scene.  I don’t remember the timeline of all this, but in a matter of a few years he found himself on the Rock Racing pro team, and was racking up the results.  I found the story compelling, and somehow made the allure of cycling grow for me, even though this was just one guy’s story.  While we had nothing in common, the race experience of that July weekend led me down a long, slow path to racing.  Not one to jump into things quickly, I still didn’t try racing for another two years, but when I did, it was at Superweek.

The last few weeks and months have brought about many changes at the top of cycling, most notably of Lance Armstrong losing his seven Tour de France titles over doping.  Many people have already written and commented about this.  I have my own thoughts too on this, but never felt I had anything compelling to share that hadn’t already been said.  Honestly, I felt tired of the issue and didn’t feel like spending the time to delve too deeply into all the sordid details.  I came across two articles last week though which suddenly took me back to that July weekend in 2007.

I actually read “The Catalyst from the blog Red Kite Prayer first, but this story  from the New York Times last week about Kayle Leogrande is better background info to start with.  For those that don’t want to spend the time reading it, the story tells how Leogrande had a non-analytical positive test for EPO that specific week of Superweek, and based on his admission to one of the team’s soigneurs (team staff-person that helps with day-to-day activities for team, as well as masseuse  for the riders), received a two-year suspension from the US Doping Agency (USADA).  While Leogrande had only met Lance Armstrong once, his admission and suspension eventually led the USADA to Armstrong.

Red Kite Prayer posted the story “The Catalyst” also last week, telling how by making a stand soigneur Suzanne Sonye had an influential role in USADA’s investigation of Armstrong.  Sonye considered Leogrande a friend, but could not sit on the information he told her.  The date in question for his usage was July 26th, and the race we went to was on the 28th.

I shared these two stories since they shed light on a racer doping, one not named Lance.  These stories gave me a strange feeling to know that a specific rider and race that inspired me in my cycling pursuits also became linked to the (now) biggest doping scandal in the history of the sport.  That’s a complicated balance to navigate.  I’m annoyed that I don’t have a satisfying way to wrap up this post, but will say that sooner or later, most people we look up to/admire/inspire us, do questionable things.  We also see people like Sonye that stood up for what’s right, even with seemingly much to lose.  It’s all a very mixed bag.  Lance Armstrong did things that I still think are great, and more than a few things that I think aren’t so great.  People are complex.  Riding a bike shouldn’t be.  At the least, if I’m not having fun riding, or if my riding schedule is hurting my relationships, I hope I will have clarity to see that I have to make changes.  Be inspired, but not at all costs.

Fall fun

1 Oct

Wow, long time since I’ve written anything.  What did I miss? Two race reports celebrating mid-ish pack finishes, 2 Grand tours, the USA Pro Challenge, and obligatory thoughts on Lance-related news!  With that, let’s start talking about other things entirely unrelated.

Through circumstance, I’ve found myself riding very little lately.  A couple of weeks ago my shifter for the rear derailleur went kaputt, and through comedy of errors, I’ve continued without my bike for over two weeks now.  I’m hoping I’ll see it again this week, but don’t want to get carried away wishing.  Patience does have its reward though – I got to take a couple of other bikes for a spin, and used my smart phone to capture the “action”.  Since I don’t have the video upgrade for WordPress, you do not get to watch that video.  Basically it’s about two minutes of me showing the Wash Park roadway blurring by (because I was going very fast), with the occasional shot of the BMC Gran Fondo’s Ultegra Di2 drivetrain shifting flawlessly.

The BMC Gran Fondo. Adjusted enough for me to ride for a bit, but I would totally slam that stem if I had it!

The ride was quite fun, and I always find it interesting to compare rides.  This bike totally smooths over the pavement, especially through the design of the fork and the rear stays.  In bike-industry speak: “very stiff for lots of power transfer, but vertically compliant for a comfortable ride.”  To translate, pedal hard, go fast, feel comfortable.  I won’t joke here, the ride position was upright enough that I thought I was on the fastest cruiser ever.  I also took a Team Machine for a spin (just like the BMC guys ride), and that only wants to go fast.  I found it hard to just cruise along, and the bike actually felt like it would just keep coasting at speed if I would pedal every 10 seconds or so.

Also from the department of bikes that I want, I stumbled across this little gem over the weekend:

Mmmmmm, sub-16 pound steel ride in orange, made in Wisco.

A custom Waterford, with Campy Super Record and wheels built in-house at Vecchio’s in Boulder.  As Wayne said in the fantastic Wayne’s World, “It will be mine.  Oh yes, it will be mine.”  This was actually just a demo; one would get a bike fit for and custom frame ordered for the real thing.  The Super Record groupset on this bike goes a long way to achieving the ultra-light weight, but an even lighter wallet.  I will not go this route.  However, nobody has to sell me on the frameset’s lifetime warranty!  Yes, the bike shall be orange.

I’ll try to write more about other recent bike happenings, but that’s what I said a few months ago, so we’ll see….

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