Pretty great finish today at the Tour of Poland.
I was riding out through an old area of Topeka, called Potwin, where it is still brick streets. There is grass and weeds growing up between the bricks on the edges of the roads. The middle is pretty clear because of the traffic, but there sides are turning green. I’m not sure what the city used to do to stop vegetation from growing on the brick streets, but they aren’t doing it now. They must have sprayed Roundup or some other vegetation killer and now they don’t. And it has to be a financial constraint. It was raining and I didn’t want to get anywhere near the edge of the road. Wet grass on wet bricks is about the worst case scenario for a bicycle tire.
It got me thinking some about how much different you can feel about a subject, observation, or emotion when you look at it with a different perspective. Or have a lower or higher expectation. It all depends on how you look at it.
I wish more Americans would look at “our” situation and realize that they have it very well. I’ve written it here before, but I’ll do it again. We have already won the lottery being born in the United States. It doesn’t matter what your demography is or where you happened to end up, you still won.
I saw an article on the front page of the USA Today a couple days ago taking about how horrible our roads have become. It used the state of Connecticut as an example of bad roads and bridges. They could have used Kansas or most of any other state I’ve been to the last couple years. Well, maybe not Wisconsin. Their roads seem pretty good. Anyway, the point is that our infrastructure is having some major issues and need major attention. At least comparing it to what we are used to historically.
I’ve been sort of depressed about this. Obviously I use the roads a lot everyday. I drive a ton, plus ride my bike a few hours a day. I’ve personally witnessed our roads getting worse. No one likes to accept worse roads or a decline in any situation. But, what I have to realize is that our roads our much, much better than most of the rest of the world’s roads. And that is the case with nearly every service you can come up with.
We have it very, very, very good. And most of us, me included, take a lot of it for granted. We are so used to having things a certain way that don’t appreciate it nearly as much as we should.
Think about getting hurt here in the United State. Nearly every citizen in American is just three numbers, 911, from having someone come and help them. No matter what your financial situation, your ethnicity, or whatever separates us, a police officer, fireman, or paramedic will show up and help you if you are in need. That is such a huge service. Knowing that we have this safety net throughout the country is something that many of us might not even put on a list of things the government does for us, but in reality, it gives all of us a peace of mind. Even when we aren’t with our friends, children or family, we know that if they have an accident, medical issues and such, society will take care of them until we can go help them.
This isn’t the case for the majority of the population of this planet. Most of the people on this planet couldn’t even imagine having this service. They are responsible for themselves when they are in situations when they can’t take care of themselves. We have it so good.
It’s the same with the fire department. If our property catches on fire, someone will come and take care of our property. We know that even if we’re far away from home that society is looking after our property. Many countries have fire departments, but I doubt very few have them that are as responsible and efficient as ours.
And the list goes on and on. We have water at our finger tips. It is everywhere, we just turn a knob and it pours out. Nearly any person in the US can go and get a 44 oz cup of ice cubes and cover those cubes with Coke, water, or whatever liquid they want. I can’t really come up with a really great guess, but for sure there are billions of people on this planet that have never had an ice cube. We have free ice in every hotel, service station, work place, just about everywhere. Ice isn’t free, though. It takes a ton of energy to make a liquid into a solid. Some would consider it wasteful energy. Not us. We like our cold beverages and expect them.
Our infrastructure is going to get worse. Probably much worse. And our services are going to be less, probably much less. The reason for this is that there are billions of people on the planet that have worse infrastructure and worse services already. It has to start to approach equity, and to do that, our standard of living is going to have to get lower, probably much lower. We have no expectation of this. But we need to realize it is going to occur. Our dollar is going to be less valuable, energy is going to cost us more, and services are going to be more expensive.
I think this is a fact. But, it doesn’t have to be depressing. We have been the world leader in most aspects of life on this planet for the last century. Most people are just trying to catch up with us. We need to have the perspective that as our standard of living is getting lower, lower compared to how it used to be, there are places on the planet where the standard of living is getting better, much better. They are just trying to get water, clean water, let alone ice cubes. Would you give up your ice cube for someone else to have access to water? I would.
We have it real good. For $3 after the ride yesterday, a pint of cold beer is available at The Flying Monkey. I thought this photo was subject appropriate because of the beer, road construction behind, and plus, Catherine using her first pint glass as a chair leveler. I’m pretty sure she has no idea how that happened.
Yesterday I fell again. I told my orthopedic surgeon friend, Stacie, that I didn’t ever fall training and now I’ve fallen 3 times since March. It is crazy. None of the falls have be consistent with normal bike riding accidents. But I guess that is how it always is.
I’m wondering now if I just didn’t used to pay attention to these little falls each year because they were just part of the deal. And when they happened, it wasn’t much of anything. Now, with mending parts, each one seems to always be a potential setback.
Yesterday was just another I didn’t see it coming thing. It had been raining all day and was supposed to rain through mid-day today. About 1 pm, there looked like there was going to be a couple hours window to get some miles in, so I called Bill and we went out. We were just planning on riding to the end of 2nd street, a 30 mile ride round trip.
On the way back, it started raining again. It wasn’t down pouring or anything and it wasn’t super cold, so it was sort of enjoyable. It started raining a little harder and we decided to come back the most direct way. That way involved a bike path.
We were riding on the road, parallel to the bike path and had to ride across 10 feet of grass to get onto it. We had a tailwind, so we weren’t going that slowly, maybe a little over 20 mph. Anyway, the wet grass wasn’t the issue, it was the dry pavement about 10 meters later, under a bridge.
The bike path went under a bridge right after the grass and it turned just ever so slightly there. When I got there, leaning just a bit, my front went completely out from under me and I landed chest first on the pavement. I hit the ground hard,as you always do when you’re not expecting to fall. That wasn’t all that bad though. What was bad was Bill pegging me full speed in the center of my chest, which obviously didn’t work very well for him either. (Sorry Bill.)
I saw him coming, plus heard him say “Steve”, but it was way out of my control and his. When he hit me, I saw him go over and heard a loud gasp and thud. I was pretty sure that he had landed head first and broke something like a collarbone. I couldn’t get a breath and was sort of curled up on the path, as was Bill. After a few seconds, we started talking and asking each other if they were okay.
I was surprised when Bill sounded alright. Nearly the first thing he said to me was I broke your ribs for sure. I told him no, my chest was okay, just my knees and hip. But, that was premature. I’m not sure what your body does to control pain right after a trauma, but I like it. It lets you come back to some sense of reality, before slowly allowing you to feel the extend of the issues.
Anyway, both Bill and I had pretty skinned up knees. The little amount of road rash was a nice thing. But, my chest got sorer riding back. And slowly, but surely, last night, while trying to sleep, it got the all-to-familiar, stabbing pain, can’t take a deep breath, no coughing, laughing or general movement for a while pain. I don’t quite understand how come when you get a rib injury in the front, then it also hurts on your back. I know that it’s connected, but it doesn’t seem right.
I hate rib injuries. The nag all day, even not riding, and they take forever to go away. Shit.
We thought about the crash all they way home and decided that under the bridge, where it was dry, there was dirt on the bike path from the built up bank on the side. Kids and homeless people(not together) hang there, so they track the dirt onto the pavement. We figured that our tires were wet and when we hit the layer of dust/dirt, it turned to mud and thus like ice. We could see Bill’s tire prints where he was trying to avoid me and the skid marks was about 3 inches wide, front and rear. I think he turned completely sideways before his tires caught and straightened him out, directly into my chest.
Bill’s seat was toast, but he said he was going to try to straighten the rails. I haven’t really looked at my bike. I doubt much is wrong, it wasn’t one of those type of crashes.
Anyway, just another blip on the shitty season screen.
The last couple days here in Kansas have been abnormally cool. On Saturday, here in Topeka, it was the lowest high temperature ever recorded. I was riding out West of town, trying to avoid the rain and the temperature was in the high 50’s mid afternoon. That was about 50 degree cooler than the same time last year. It rained on us just a bit. It is amazing how fast it goes from feeling alright to being cold when you throw just a little water into the mix.
I’ve been cold a bunch riding bikes in my life. I wrote a post a few years ago about the coldest I’ve ever been. It wasn’t at a bike race, it was at a photo shoot during a bike race.
I’ve raced a ton of bike races. Thousands. And plenty of those have been in the rain, snow and cold. I usually do well in the cold. I thought historically that I do well because many other people use it as an excuse to not do well. That probably isn’t the whole reason. Some people probably just don’t function physiologically as well when they are cold as others.
Anyway, I don’t normally get cold racing off-road. Cyclo-X and MTB racing is so high intensity, that your body is running super hot and there is much less wind chill because you’re moving much slower.
I hardly ever race in leg warmers or tights. Hardly ever. I usually just put oil on my legs and call it a day. I will wear knee warmers/leg warmers if it is just plain, down right, cold, with no moisture, but as soon as it is going to be wet, I won’t wear them. I hate having wet cloth over my knees when I’m racing.
The coldest I’ve ever been personally, I wrote about in the post link above. The coldest I’ve been racing, I mentioned in the post, which was at the Tour of Bisbee, back in the 80’s. I’ve been cold a ton down in the Tour of Southland on the South Island of New Zealand. The weather there in November can be horrendous, but that day in Bisbee, topped Southland.
It was during a 104 mile road race, two 52 mile laps. It was raining at the start of the rain. Cold rain. I was riding for the Levi’s team with Roy Knickman, Tim Hinz and Thurlow Rogers. We knew it was going to be a hard day. I didn’t realize it until I pulled out the newspaper article, but I guess we voted at the line whether to race one or two laps and it looks like it was almost unanimous that we voted for one. But, it must of been one of those votes were if one guy votes no, then we race the whole way because we did 2 laps. (I bet that guy didn’t finish.)
The was snow on the ground, the temperatures in the low 40’s and it was raining and sleeting. I was dressed appropriately. I’m pretty sure I’ve never wore so many layers on top. I had a wool undershirt, a wool long sleeve jersey and a Lead Edge Gortex jacket that Andy Hampsten had gotten us. Gore-tex was new on the market and it was perfect for the day.
I used to always start fast, so I was a perfect candidate to cover the early move. I always did. That move went almost immediately, mainly because of the weather. I got into a break, I don’t remember exactly, but maybe around 6 guys. We were rotating okay, but not completely motivated because we knew most likely that it wasn’t going to work and that using so much energy early, the end of the race was going to be real ugly for us.
The break did the complete first lap together and at the end of the lap we rode up Mule Pass, through a tunnel and then descending back into Bisbee. On the climb, it was raining a sleeting. I look back and saw a group coming up to us. I recognized Roy at the front, so I sat up. The new guys were pretty fresh compared to us. I managed to hang onto them over the top.
Getting caught, it was my job to get Roy as far up the road as possible. Right after leaving Bisbee, we started going pretty hard. I figured I’d pull for maybe 20 miles and then be done. I’d been off the front all day. Pretty soon it was just Roy and I pulling with the rest of the group sitting on.
I told Roy to sit on more and I was doing the majority of the work. I figured I was going to be done way before the finish. Eventually Roy got impatient and attacked with 15 miles to go. Randy Wicker, a super strong guy from Colorado went after Roy and I got on him. Randy got me about half way up to Roy, swung over and said that he was pretty much done and it was “all ours”. So, I pulled Randy up to Roy and told him the situation. I kept going hard at the front, just trying to get to the bottom of the final climb.
When we got to the bottom of the climb, Randy just sat up. I was surprised. I made it maybe 1/2 way up the climb with Roy, but couldn’t keep his pace. I remember Eddie B. standing on the side of the road when I was still with Roy and knew that wasn’t going to be good for me. Roy always like to show-off in front of Eddie, so I knew my time was short. Roy dropped me a couple miles from the top and I pretty much seized up. He put a couple minutes into me the last bit. I held on to finish 2nd, Randy 3rd.
Upon crossing the line, I was shattered. Beyond shattered. Trudi rushed us into a warm cafe and covered us with wool blankets. I couldn’t keep from shaking. For hours. What is weird is that I had ever piece of clothing I could wear on and Roy was wearing a short sleeve jersey and long finger gloves. And I very much doubt that if you asked him, he would say it was that bad of a day. It was my coldest.
I was reading an article at Cyclingnews.com about how Belgium is on the bubble when it comes to fielding a full squad at the World Road Championships.
In the article, my friend, Carlos Bomans, who is the national team coach, is saying that San Sebastian and the Tour of Poland are very important races to keep Belgium in 10th in UCI rankings. The first 10 countries field a full 9 rider roster, and the next only 6.
Belgium has had pretty good results recently in the World Championships, with Philippe Gilbert winning last year.
I think it is funny that you don’t hear anything about this in the US. Because the thing is that the United States is the country in 11th place, only 18 points behind Belgium. I’ve always thought it was strange how little emphasis that USAC, plus the American Pro riders, put on the World Championships.
It all started with Lance. He won the race and then pretty much quit participating. I think the reason that the Worlds was always skipped by the “best” US professionals the last decade or so, is because of the doping regiment and the timing of the race. I’m not exactly sure how it works, doping that is, but I know by watching, that the riders disappeared off the face of the map for over a month at a time, and then seemed to come back at a different level. That is kind of hard to do at the end of the year, after the Tour.
I think it is a shame that the US doesn’t field the best team possible for the World Championships. I know it is a money deal for the USAC. I rode the World Road Championships twice, once as an amateur and once as a professional. Neither of these times did USAC pay for my ticket to Europe. I’m sure it’s a struggle for them now to do that. 1/2 the office and the board of USAC used to show up at the event. I doubt that has changed either.
It is even worse on the track. Do we even send a team to the World Track Championships? Do we even has a US track program? If we do, it’s can’t be very good.
What is sad, is that is by chance, the US happened to find itself in the top ten of countries, it would have a hard time coming up with 9 good riders that would commit to the race. For some strange reason, American riders seem to have no interest in the World Road Championships. I wonder why?
Anyway, the World Championships is the most important one day race of the year, most years. I’d say winning the Olympics is probably more prestigious now, but in cycling circles, the rainbow stripes continues to be the ultimate prize. USAC and the professional riders need to start putting a bigger priority on the event. It deserves respect.
This past week has been kind of wacky. I’ve hardly ridden at all this week. A couple 40 mile rides and not much else. So I’m going to hang around Topeka and train some. There was a criterium in Springfield Missouri that I raced last year, but I need the miles more than the intensity. It is supposed to be pretty cool temperture-wise, so that is nice.
So, I’m going to get on my bike a ride for a few hours today and tomorrow.
It doesn’t seem like I accomplished hardly anything this past week. I’m not sure why that was. I guess it is because I didn’t get back here to ride until Tuesday, so it was a shortened week. At least that is the excuse I’m using.
This morning was short. I like listening to public radio on Saturday mornings and since San Sebastian was today, that was a bonus. Our outdoor cat, Fritz, came in to pay us a visit and eat. Mainly to eat. Fritz is in charge of keeping the realm clear of all other cats in the neighborhood. Thus, he is pretty beat up most of the time. He came in this morning with a big gash on his neck.
It was going to be an all day affair taking him to the emergency vet. Plus, he’d just eaten, so they would have had to keep him overnight to put him asleep on a empty stomach, so I decided to do it myself. As a word of advise, I can’t say it is the smartest thing to try to stitch up a cat normally, but Fritz is special. He had an issue, I’m not exactly sure what, but when he gets scared, he just lays over and stays relatively still. So, out of all the cats we have, Fritz is most likely the only one I could do this to.
Anyway, Stacie’s medical bag gift came into good use. I had to use two different sets of sutures. I picked too big a needle to begin with. Cat skin is super thin. It worked out pretty well. Fritz wasn’t too big on my trying to shave the area, but other than that, he was good. I kept tying his whiskers into the knots, which was annoying. He might not make an appearance for a few days now. He likes it when Trudi is around, so he comes in way more often. Maybe that will be the case here.
Okay, it is sort of drizzly out now. I guess that is okay. Better than 105 like last year.