Duties

By: Gustavo Cinci Aug 30

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It may be an amusing surprise for the unaware, but in general most experienced cyclists are skilled amateur meteorologists. Yes, that’s correct. The ensemble, bici + human cannot be considered complete as the trinity requires the element “weather” to be considered holy. We’re referring to roadies here, so some of the track folks get a pass (for now). As we all know, weather usually has a strong say at the outcome of your latest spin. When someone asks “How’s the riding in your area?”, the answer varies; at times it’s a flowery, sublime account of the magic mix of sun+low humidity+little wind+nice temps. Other times, depending on the season, it can be a diatribe of one’s Calvary, whipped by wind-driven rain, blinding snow squalls or tarmac-melting heat. This is not your average chit-chat about the weather. No, that’s for commuters and socially inept co-workers. One can spend hours discussing pluviometric indexes, wind direction and exactly at what temperature and humidity one’s body performs at its best. Weather talk fascinates us as it’s both interesting and revealing, because when we discuss atmospheric variety, we also offer our own experiences, further strengthening the bond we have as sports mates. But what is worst than bad weather?

Let’s say you’ve had a long week, as in “one of those weeks”. Your boss was less than cordial and more than demanding. You may or may not have ridden to your satisfaction. Maybe you got to race, or, if you’re one of those lucky folks, you may have given yourself a “personal day” and logged several beautiful kilometers midweek. But for most of us, we look to the weekend with a planned resolve to have some well-earned saddle time. By Friday evening, your wife/girlfriend/partner turns to you and says “Did you see it may rain tomorrow?”, which in wife lingo means “You’re not riding tomorrow”, but can also actually mean “You’re not setting foot out of the house till you mow the lawn/clean the toilet/do laundry/go food shopping/watch the kids while I play soccer/prepare dinner”, etc. If this reads like fiction to you, quit this page immediately and go find what Miley Cyrus is up to these days. However, if this seems painfully familiar, well, here are a few categories that may help you get a clue regarding your spousal chores. Sure, living together entails a fair division of duties. Some of them cannot be skirted, some can be postponed, but the very definition of “duty” is something you must do, period. So let’s get to them.

MMDs
Those are the most vague, wide-encompassing variety, but not less important. Married Man Duties mean that you have work that can’t be done by itself, but won’t necessarily harm anyone. When buddies ask your availability and you mention you have MMDs, they’ll understand, nod along, feel slightly sorry for you, and perhaps even accommodate a later departure time. The same holds true if you suggest an ungodly early ride – you have dragged your feet during the week, the laundry pile has grown and developed its own smell and zip code, and you have to be home to address your myriad responsibilities. It can also be referred to as BD (boyfriend duties, like going to church to impress your future in-laws) or FD (friend duties, like picking up your bud’s bike at the shop). Though of lesser importance and with more room for negotiation, BDs and FDs are honorable responsibilities and require a modicum of attention. It’s also worth mentioning SGD (single guy/gal duties); for those who have absolutely nothing else going on, folks will turn to you when they need help moving, building cabinets during the weekend or a spotter at the gym. Be nice.

DDs
Daddy Duties are sacred. But can be awful too, like skipping work (yay!) to stay home with a sick kid (boo!), or being sent out of the house, kitted up and embrocated, to the local pharmacy to get this or that medicine before you meet your friends for a ride. DDs are non-negotiable because the welfare of dependants are at stake, after all, it’s not their problem if you arranged to go drink beer or wanted to go to a hammer session when Junior got an ear infection. Or wants to go to the park. Or has a playdate you chose to forget because your significant other scheduled it during bicycle time (translation: daytime).

WDs
Sounds like the solvent thingy you should never spray on your bike – triathletes take note – but those are the worst sort of chores. Aside from being super sucky, they cannot be negotiated, outsourced or skipped, lest you get in trouble with the boss, meaning your boss, not the significant other. And that is Work Duties. If for some disgraceful reason your employer requires you to be tethered to your smart phone 24/7, then I really feel bad for you. Actually, I don’t, because if you have a round-the-clock relationship with work, then at least they pay you better than average. Or you’re a doctor. Either way, sorry man, I’ll let the boys know you ain’t comin’.

Naturally, this is not a “woe-is-me” account from a busy daddy. The main issue here is to achieve the impossible: finding balance among all the important things in your daily routine. You should be so lucky to get this far with all the riding you do, or the importance you place on bicycles. So when variables get in the way, you make way for them. Understand your duties, address them smartly, and you can turn them into currency. When the time comes, you cash in your chips.

Speaking of which, this Tuesday looks great, dry, no wind, and in the low 70s. What are you doing? I’m gonna go racing, man. Beers afterwards? Guaranteed.

 

Not You, Miguel

By: Gustavo Cinci Aug 8

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It may have happened to you, if you have folks around with a similar name. A namesake, if you will. So you’re on the school bus, pre-teen kids already claiming their pegs on the local social hierarchy; there are the cool kids, the cool-ish kids, the hang abouts, and then you. You (or me, in this case) being categorically non-cool. Fine. And the kids joke and cajole and go to other kids’ parties, which sometimes you did, sometimes you didn’t. That’s not necessarily what bothers you. Rather, the really bothersome part is that one of the popular kids has your name, or you have his name. Then someone calls out your name, and you were not in the conversation, or not in the latest social event, so you don’t really know what they’re talking about, but you answer anyway, just to be slapped down: “No, not you. The other Elétrico”. It’s sucky and disappointing, especially if the allegedly “cool kid” is actually a dork whose father gave him a set of heavy binoculars for his birthday. Could be worse, though; some people have the dubious glory of having a very similar looking, if not twin, sibling and the world will spend your existence attempting to tell the differences between the two of you. The chances here are high that you’d be deemed “the other” brother (or sister). Yes, it happened to me on both regards, as my brother and I (plus my cousin) look a little bit too much like each other.

Imagine you made it in the pro category. Very few of you are already there, it’s not that great sometimes, but you’re a pro and that’s that. Now imagine that your brother is the one people define as awesome. He smokes opponents in the sprints, time trials, uphill, is a great descender or a combination of all of them. Miguel Indurain has a brother, Prudencio, who I followed way back when both made their living in the pro ranks. Miguel was on his way to winning all sorts of events, and Prudencio followed suit, as in “went with him”, not the winning kind of following suit. A facsimile version of his older brother, at times he’d be deployed as a decoy for fans, photographers or autograph seekers, posing as Miguelón so he could offer his bro a break from the multiple race-day requests. Prudencio wasn’t nearly as prolific a victor as Miguel, his main status being “Miguel’s Brother”. And not only he had to contend with the demands of a passion-filled nation hungry for victories, it might have been burdensome, to say the least, to be compared day in and day out with the other Indurain. And I wonder how other pros handled it, and I wonder about the Simon (see-moan, not sigh-mon) brothers from France, a litter of 4 riders with various levels of abilities. Pascal’s (the oldest brother) claim to fame was as leader of the Peugeot team (and having Phil Anderson as his domestique) at the 1983 Tour, until he crashed while in yellow and relinquished his status as captain. The other 2, sandwiched between Pascal and François, had modest success spanning the years between late 80s and early-mid 90s. The runt, François, book-ended the dynasty by getting his share of wins, plus a stint in yellow during the 2001 Tour. Naturally not all sibling pros enjoy the talent of the main man. Jura Sagan and Cesare Cipollini come to mind, although some can break that trend.

Which brings us to our own local scene. As I toed the line at last Tuesday’s training race, I noticed a familiar face, or familiar faces. Like the McCormack brothers, who did and still do rip the legs off the sockets of most everyone in the New England area (with their kids following suit - as in winning), the Keough clan has proved to be a formidable crew of racers, from top to bottom, encompassing road, bmx and cross disciplines. All the five of them showed up, plus the father, who still races. Of them I became friendly with Jake (United Healthcare), as we’ve met several years ago, when he was a tiny junior with restricted gear ratios, high spin and a searing sprint. His younger brother Luke, also became professional for Mtn Khakis not too long ago. Seems this set of kids keep feeding the pro ranks every 2 years or so, every single one of them distinctive, skilled and honed through seasons of hard work, passion and racing. I am sure they get comments, comparisons and confused looks from fellow racers as they do resemble each other. Will they all be successful? Probably, maybe, who knows. But every each one of them will have their own set of glories and renown, every one of them a hallmark of New England bicycle racing.

And now we’re straight back to Prudencio and me, even though this isn’t really about me here. Yes, Miguelón was the reference, and forever they’ll be juxtaposed as “no, not him, his brother”. To which I’d like to add: yes, you, Prudencio. He’s the younger Indurain, he bore the brunt, carried it fluidly, while looking good in the process. The one and only Prudencio, no one else could do what he did.

And he’s unique like that, all by himself. As for the other Elétrico, well, the last I heard he’s just as bald, but not nearly as fit and handsome as this guy.

 

Plateau des Allumettes Mouillées

By: Gustavo Cinci Jul 18

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So you did all the required winter work: weights, 2×20s (3×20s when you felt extra frisky), some intervals. Now the ice is melting and the leash is long. You ride outside, the dry, cold crisp air pushes the stale, basement-generated sputum out in chunks, ridding yourself of the extra weight that months of dark, semi-activity took residence in your system. You swear off beer, or at least the stout varieties, and you watch yourself get leaner, the outdoor skills coming back. It’s invigorating and the sensations give you the solid feedback of that old friend who may be coming to stay, what is her name again? She is as beautiful as she is fickle, hard to get and difficult to maintain. Oh yes – Sweet Lady Fitness. Good form that manifests itself in seemingly endless matches to burn, you go for townlines, sneak attacks, many accelerations that reward you with quick recovery for even more accelerations. You have so many fireworks that you could light a Def Leppard concert, so much so your friends have to ride deep rimmed hoops just to keep up with your glorious promise of speed.

First training race rolls around, the pack is nearly full and it hurts, the voice in your head brandishes its fist at you, yelling “you should have done more kettlebell exercises damnit!”. You glance your vicinities and your fellow racers have ghastlier faces, maybe they should have done more kettlebell exercises; the pace is up and it stays up, coincidence or not every time you look at your computer you see 50km/h, you go in a few moves and marvel afterwards that the average speed hovered 45km/h. Wow. Exhilarating.

April-May races come and the Joe Racer in you couldn’t be happier, morale is high, you feel impervious to cold and rain (or cold rain), you look forward to the tingling that embrocation provides. Racing feels awesome, everything is new again and your relationship with Fitness is going really well. You celebrate your good riding with your favorite IPAs, mid-week training races are fast, and you get to do many of them. The spark is there, you’re enjoying everything and life becomes an endless smooth-paved road on its way to beautiful escapism. Nothing can hold you back, and you figure out that your cruising gear is 53×17, which you spin effortlessly everywhere.

Or at least that’s what you think.

After the mass of spring road races, the central nervous system goes a bit stale, tiredness sets in and some of your most frolicsome friends begin to hurt you on rides. Progress doesn’t come in leaps anymore; rather, they inch incrementally, but you’re either too stuffed to go and eke out that extra few seconds/watts out of your intervals or just plain don’t really feel like it. What’s going on? You’re a bit drained, but you keep plugging along, adding a few more IPAs after rides, skipping a few midweek races. Before you know it, your legs feel bloated and that 53×17 combo comes out in squares, as a matter of fact this gear ratio seems like the stupidest thing to churn when you’re not that fresh. You sense the overall excitement is an octave lower, noticing that on the weeknight training races your buddies are less willing to chase that breakaway (you go!, no, you go!, I went last time damnit, etc), and that the matches aren’t that plenty after all. You shake the legs, your mind wanders, you curse yourself you’re out of your favorite brew, then SHIT!, you narrowly escape a crash because you were not paying attention.

Welcome to Plateau Nation, you rode yourself raw, down to the nub. The matches are hard to find, the ones available are wet, and you don’t really care to dry them up. It happens to most of us, by mid-season I’d wonder if the airlines lost my suitcase of courage somewhere, though I always knew it’d eventually turn up. But let’s extrapolate a bit here; plateaus happen on most facets of our lives. Which human has never gotten rotten bored of say, his or her job? Or the house cat, that decides to loudly sing DO-RE-MEOW the moment the baby is finally asleep? Or your companion, who sometimes seems to favor playing the role of “no dice, chief” to everything you suggest or want to do; See what I mean? And the cycle goes back to where it began, us resorting to the little things that offer solace, peace, excitement, whatever it is that fills that pang of nothingness. Sometimes too much play, or too much work can overload the system causing imbalances, heart-palpitations, headaches, physical malaises that require you to drop everything and pay attention to the inner gearings of your engine. So go play curling, take the lady out, learn to fly fish, pull weeds out of the lawn, cook gnocchi from scratch or build that model airplane you’ve been meaning to; whatever therapy that’ll help assembling you back together. When you least expect, you’ll be salivating to be back in action; little ring will turn into big ring, and your best friend – Fitness – will be back, smiling and daring you to dry your matches and light up that 53×17 again. So how about you get your butt in the saddle and let’s ride down this plateau? There’s a townline on the way with your name on it.

 

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