Sunday, February 10, 2008

Me and George Hincapie Conquer the Hills

Big George accepting my challenge. As you can see, he’s riding for Team High Road this year. High Road rose from the ashes of T-Mobile, a winning team that had been sponsored for years by Deutsche Telekom, until last year they decided to withdraw support. George rode for years with the U.S. Postal/Discovery team (as it changed sponsors), but left that team last year right before it broke up. He will be competing in this year’s Tour of California, and he told us all he’s going for the win.

I’d ride in the Tour too, but I have a day job. It is a shame to miss all that scenery. But the coffee’s free where I work.

The guy speaking is from Amgen’s anti-cancer team. Next to him is a woman from The Wellness Community, a non-profit that helps folks with cancer. Next to her is a cancer survivor. Then of course Big George—or, as the announcer called him, “General George.” He’s 6'3" tall, which means I had a minor height advantage over him—I’m shorter, so I don’t block quite so much wind.

He weighs somewhat less than me, though, so I suppose he gets the girth advantage.

But that means I’m carrying more fuel to help me up those hills.

All the people who came to ride the hills. The organizers asked us to wear our jerseys, so they could identify which riders were with the group.

I didn’t know any of these people when I took this picture, but it’s funny to see it later, because now I recognize a few of them.

The kid in the lower left corner rode out ahead of me with some others early in the ride, but got clobbered on the first major hill, where I overtook him. I commiserated as I caught up with him, explaining that I train only on the flat. He was right up to speed and said it was a few months since he’d been on a bike at all. Everyone has to have a story for why they’re struggling. He was a good companion for a while—he caught up to me again on the flat, and we drafted each other for a few miles. Then we hit some more hills, and again my legs had a little more left in them. I looked back, and he was further behind me, and then further, and then I didn’t see him. By the end of the ride, I don’t think he was more than a couple of minutes behind me. I saw him after we finished.

The guy in the yellow helmet passed me about a mile before the finish, with one other guy. I’m not sure where they came from—there hadn’t been anyone behind me for quite a while. I was still going strong. They were the only two who passed me on the ride.

The guy in the white helmet right behind him—with a red wrist protector—led out early in the ride with another friend. About three or four other people from our “wave” (we started in bunches of a couple dozen riders at a time) surged out and joined him. I tagged along behind them by a few bike lengths, half drafting, until we hit that first big hill and they hiked right up and over it while I lagged a bit. Except for at the turnaround, I didn’t see them again until after the ride.

Everyone was very friendly, not competitive. Lots of good riders. It was a real pleasure to be with this group.

This is Big George and the posse he started with. Hmm. This picture is from in front of George Hincapie. Hmm.

I got George’s autograph on my route map after the race, and wished him luck in the coming Tour of California. I also thanked him for the jerseys. (They say Amgen in big letters, but I noticed they were his clothing brand.) He was very laid back and accessible.

The hills were gorgeous and green for the whole ride, but I didn’t stop to take any pictures, so you’ll just have to imagine them.

I was mostly just there for the ride, but I didn’t mind the cause either. On my ride up to the starting point, I took a spin around the cemetery where we buried Dad after he lost his fight with cancer back when I was in college.

The ride to the starting point also took me past my old middle school, where the principal—Leo Lowe—way back in the 1970s used to encourage me to stay fit, to the point of taking me and some of my fellow students to San Francisco on weekends to run in races organized by the Dolphins Club and some other groups, 10K races on scenic routes through the city. I lost touch with Leo Lowe long ago, after he moved to Southern California to a good position with another school district. But it pleased me to know that if I could stop in the office today and see Mr. Lowe, I’d be able to give him a good report on the effects of his influence decades later.

The other guy back then who encouraged me to stay fit—along with Dad and Leo Lowe—was my uncle Dick, who sent me Ken Cooper’s original Aerobics book when I was a lad, not too many years after the term was first coined. It explained scientifically how running and swimming and cycling worked to keep folks healthy. At the time Cooper’s ideas seemed a little out of left field to most people, like one more fitness fad. I put Dad’s and Dick’s names up on the signature wall where riders could mark their connections with people who had fought cancer.

And the whole ride started at the Stanford Blood Center, where Mom spent a lot of hours over the years, giving a pint at a time, in pretty much uncelebrated generosity. I have a few free T-shirts she gave me from time to time when the Blood Center celebrated a new location or some other milestone.

All in all, a good ride, with a lot of great riders, for a fine cause. My little contribution is the least stick on top of a big pile of good wood.

Not bad for a Sunday.

1 comment:

Kangamoo said...

Sounds like a good day and a good time. It is nice to be able to go back and be with the ones you loved and lost and be with old memories before a ride for a good cause.

Shouldn't it be George Hincapie and I conquer the hills? Sorry that is the mother in me.