The right way

November 4, 2015 § 20 Comments

The path of truth is straight, but lined with razors and thorns.

Reading about George Hincapie got me thinking about Steve Tilford. You couldn’t pick two people who are more different. One is quiet, dishonest, and makes his living on the back of ill-gotten gains that he earned through a career of cheating.

The other is garrulous, honest, and makes his living by playing fair and giving it his all. I’ve been meaning to do a write-up of Steve’s visit to the South Bay a few weeks ago, when he flew in from Kansas to give the keynote speech at the 3rd Annual South Bay Cycling Awards.

Copyright Phil Beckman, PB Creative. Used with permission.

Copyright Phil Beckman, PB Creative. Used with permission.

But I haven’t been able to do it because each time I sat down to type, the job seemed too immense. This evening it seems even more impossible, and not just because there’s a pot of Cajun beans and pork bubbling on the stove, infusing the room with a smell that screams “Eat me now!” without pause.

Big job or not, here goes.

Steve flew out and we met him at the Hotel Shade in Manhattan Beach. I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve ridden with lots of pros and cycling icons, and for the most part they are really disappointing in terms of personality. Something about endless miles seems to make the top tier of riders mute, or stupid, or bland, or some tasteless combination of all three.

Not Steve. From the minute we started pedaling, he was talking. Friendly, funny, and more stories than you could ever remember. Riding next to him was like leaping off into a bottomless pool of anecdotes and cycling history. If we had been expecting a bitter old curmudgeon, we would have been sadly surprised. As Steve said, “I’m not anti-doping, I’m pro-cycling. And that means I reject cheating in all its forms.”

Surrounded by us, the clueless clods of the South Bay, Steve never missed a beat, never looked down his nose at anybody, and politely followed the etiquette of the ride–an etiquette that ended with him stomping the collective dicks of some of SoCal’s strongest riders. Smiling, game for a hard ride, happy to cruise, he made us all feel like champions even though the real champion was he.

It’s impressive to watch great athletes do their thing, but the beauty of cycling is that you can sometimes participate, however briefly, in the performance. Finishing a hundred yards back from Steve the first time up to the Domes and right behind him the second time was better than any masters race, even though he was obviously going at quarter-throttle. Later in the ride, when he pulled out the stops going up Via Zumaya, no one could hold his wheel. No one. And where we were all wrecked after the ride, he had coffee and then went out for another “easy” 30 miles.

But his athletic performance was nothing compared to his keynote speech at our award ceremony. He literally graced us with his presence, speaking with conviction, with passion, with honesty, and with hail-fellow-well-met good cheer that turned a special night into an unforgettable one. Sincere, funny, and happy to hang out with the crowd after speaking and knock back a few beers … this is what every champion should be, but hardly any of them are.

The path of truth may be a hard one, but seeing people like Steve Tilford should give everyone hope and inspiration that it’s not simply a path we can take, but one that we should.

The guns of August, the pea-shooters of September

September 1, 2015 § 16 Comments

CBR-6

Photo Credit: Danny Munson, copyright 2015.

Although I generally despise the “off season” let me say that I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, which is the first day of September, which in turn marks the first day of my off season.

I need a break. For the first time in more than 30 years I didn’t flame out in early April, to which I can only credit having finally learned that you can’t keep training hard once race season starts, and to this little pearl of wisdom: The older you get, the less you recover.

It was an exciting year of racing even though I only fell off my bicycle once, at the BWR going around a turn with my head down into a cactus. A smattering of top-ten placings hint at even more mediocrity to come, which is encouraging. Best of all, I have no idea how many miles I rode this year, but it was at least 500, maybe even more.

In addition to the euphoria of not having to lace up my cycling jockstrap for a while, there was the sad news about my sobriety. “What sad news?” you ask. “The sobriety,” I answer. “That’s the sad news.”

But every sad occurrence is balanced by something not totally awful, and in this case for the first time in four years I won’t be entering September with the awful, heavy, painful dread of cyclocross hanging around my balls. I sold my ‘cross bike and won’t be buying it back. Thank you Major Bob for cutting the seat post so low that I couldn’t ride it even if I wanted to.

Will I miss not racing for a few months? Probably. What joy compares with having “Payday” Johnny Walsh, alleged teammate, chase me down in a breakaway with two laps to go so that he can score a $20 prime? Johnny, next time just come up to me after the race. I will give you the twenty dollars and a spare inner tube.

What thrill compares with bridging to the monsters of the crit peloton, Pat Bos, Derek Brauch, and Thurlow Rogers, with two laps to go in the 40+ race, only to get mown down and discarded by the hungry peloton and finishing so far back that they didn’t even put me on the results sheet?

What joy compares with getting dropped at Boulevard, dropped at Punchbowl, dropped at Lake Castaic, and dropped at Bakersfield? I know! It’s the joy of having my saddle fall off with one lap to go at the Poor College Kids RR and the super, super, super joy of having pro photographers like Danny Munson and Phil Beckman take exciting photos of me whizzing around a corner looking fast when actually I’m in 78th place with one lap to go.

And of course 2015 is ending with a sort of sputter, as all years in profamateur cycling end. The great SPY-Giant-RIDE p/b GQ6 team is merging with Monster Media to form … what? SPY Monster? Media SPY? Team Blurge? And then the best of all reasons to take a break in September is so that I can properly evaluate the high dollar offers pouring in from masters teams around the state who want my services. Perhaps I’ll hire an agent.

END

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For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and learn savvy negotiating tactics for getting onto the best profamateur team out there. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

The guns of August, the pea-shooters of September

September 1, 2015 § 16 Comments

CBR-6

Photo Credit: Danny Munson, copyright 2015.

Although I generally despise the “off season” let me say that I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, which is the first day of September, which in turn marks the first day of my off season.

I need a break. For the first time in more than 30 years I didn’t flame out in early April, to which I can only credit having finally learned that you can’t keep training hard once race season starts, and to this little pearl of wisdom: The older you get, the less you recover.

It was an exciting year of racing even though I only fell off my bicycle once, at the BWR going around a turn with my head down into a cactus. A smattering of top-ten placings hint at even more mediocrity to come, which is encouraging. Best of all, I have no idea how many miles I rode this year, but it was at least 500, maybe even more.

In addition to the euphoria of not having to lace up my cycling jockstrap for a while, there was the sad news about my sobriety. “What sad news?” you ask. “The sobriety,” I answer. “That’s the sad news.”

But every sad occurrence is balanced by something not totally awful, and in this case for the first time in four years I won’t be entering September with the awful, heavy, painful dread of cyclocross hanging around my balls. I sold my ‘cross bike and won’t be buying it back. Thank you Major Bob for cutting the seat post so low that I couldn’t ride it even if I wanted to.

Will I miss not racing for a few months? Probably. What joy compares with having “Payday” Johnny Walsh, alleged teammate, chase me down in a breakaway with two laps to go so that he can score a $20 prime? Johnny, next time just come up to me after the race. I will give you the twenty dollars and a spare inner tube.

What thrill compares with bridging to the monsters of the crit peloton, Pat Bos, Derek Brauch, and Thurlow Rogers, with two laps to go in the 40+ race, only to get mown down and discarded by the hungry peloton and finishing so far back that they didn’t even put me on the results sheet?

What joy compares with getting dropped at Boulevard, dropped at Punchbowl, dropped at Lake Castaic, and dropped at Bakersfield? I know! It’s the joy of having my saddle fall off with one lap to go at the Poor College Kids RR and the super, super, super joy of having pro photographers like Danny Munson and Phil Beckman take exciting photos of me whizzing around a corner looking fast when actually I’m in 78th place with one lap to go.

And of course 2015 is ending with a sort of sputter, as all years in profamateur cycling end. The great SPY-Giant-RIDE p/b GQ6 team is merging with Monster Media to form … what? SPY Monster? Media SPY? Team Blurge? And then the best of all reasons to take a break in September is so that I can properly evaluate the high dollar offers pouring in from masters teams around the state who want my services. Perhaps I’ll hire an agent.

END

————————

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and learn savvy negotiating tactics for getting onto the best profamateur team out there. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

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