Kind of like with Jesus, it is always good to wait a few days before writing the epitaph.
I had already written Destroyer’s, and I wrote it back in November when he was lying on my couch, destroyed. We had done a 22-mile pancake pedal around the hill and it had almost killed him.
This, the Destroyer who owned the Donut, who had won Boulevard RR, who was the feared lead-out method for his team, Methods to Winning, the guy who combined savvy, strength, bike handling, intuition, and a nose for the kill better than a cyborg, was prostrate on my couch unable to stand after a ride that he would normally have been able to do one-legged without breaking a sweat.
What had happened? What had laid this icon so low with such breathtaking speed? Alas, fatherhood. No longer gaily sashaying from group ride to group ride, from race to race, from leaderboard to leaderboard, in a matter of months he had become a droop-dicked, shit-shoveling, diaper dandling father, a man who put family ahead of bikes, who was willing to forswear the life of bike bum for the obligation of child-rearing.
It made me so sad.
But what was I to do? I have seen countless riders come and go, and hardly any stay. Whether family, job, health, wealth, boredom, or the inability to find an affordable anti-aging clinic, sticking with cycling, so different from syphilis, is hard to do.
So I watched Destroyer fade into the past, another cycling legend, one of the people I most loved to get dropped by, as he graduated from bicycling to fathering.
Imagine my shock when I saw Charon Smith congratulate each of his teammates for helping with his victory last weekend and in the congratulation mention none other than Derek the Destroyer.
I dialed Destroyer up to find out what had happened. Had he injured his groinus lateralis playing tennis? Had he gained 200 pounds and been given doctor’s orders to get healthy again? Had he sold his family?
No, none of the above.
“Dude,” I said, “you’re back! What happened?”
“In a word?”
“Yes, or however many.”
I listened, stunned.
“I saw the light, like finding Jesus, only with this difference: Jesus never made anyone lose 15 pounds in their first month.”
“Yeah, Zwift is the only really acceptable cult nowadays if you’re not going to believe in Christ or Tesla. And once you find it, dude, your soul is saved.”
“It’s like this, Wanky. I’m a busy dude. I work a lot. I have a small child that demands attention. I have a wife that demands that I attend the child’s demands, not to mention hers.”
“And you know what there isn’t time for?”
“Pfffft. There is ALWAYS time for fantasy football.”
“Wind. Sunburn. Rain. Thirty minutes getting dressed. Eleven stop signs and four traffic lights before I can actually get to a decent area where I can get potentially run over by angry motorists while training. Bike attire laundry. Oiling my chain. Mis-changing my cassette before going on a ride.”
“What are you saying?”
“No tennis elbow, either. Zwift is the most efficient way to cycle, ever.”
“Heck yes. All you need is a Zwift cave.”
“A Zwift cave. It’s a dedicated area where you have a smart trainer, a 32-inch TV, a sweet laptop, a stack of workout towels, and all you need is a pair of shorts and cleats. You can go all in for under three grand; fifty grand if you do the add-on or basement renovation.”
“What is a smart trainer?”
“The opposite of a dumb trainer. You know those things way back in the 2000’s where you would spin hopelessly for four hours staring at the wall and give up after fifteen minutes because you were losing your mind? Those.”
“Zwift is that good?”
“It’s better. I get a killer workout in an hour, then I’m done. And if the kid shits his pants I’m there to change it.”
“So there is one negative.”
“Right. But otherwise, it’s so much better than reality. It’s fun. It’s rewarding. It’s interactive with complete strangers I never have to talk to and learn about their marital problems or eczema. I can ride the coolest bike and wheels and kit. Never lose a $2,000 rim due to a pothole. My bike never has to be washed, and the only injury I’ve ever gotten is the time I had to move my Wahoo Kickr upstairs, it weighs a hundred pounds and I herniated a disc.”
“It just sounds so unreal.”
“Dude, it out-reals reality. Even the doping is better.”
“Oh, hell yes. You have the old school dope doping, where dudes shoot EPO to win virtual Zwift races and training rides, and then you have Zwift doping, where you lie about your weight to improve your power-to-weight ratio, or you shrink yourself over time to improve your drag coefficient.”
“So riders get lighter and shorter?”
“Sure. Why not?
“I’m not sure.”
“About what? You would love it! And by love it, I mean you would hate it.”
“Sure. It’s everything you hate about reality, by which I mean reality getting displaced by Facebook and Strava. This is Stravbook, actually, the best of both worlds. I mean the worst, of course.”
“Look. It has gotten me back on my bike. I even raced last weekend. A real race with 3-D people, many of whom were using actual drugs formulated in an honest-to-goodness lab. You would have approved.”
“Well, you riding again is the undeniably best thing. So we’ll get to ride together, which you know, I’ve really missed.”
Then there was a long pause.