Shaming the Badger

October 22, 2014 § 24 Comments

I just finished reading “Slaying the Badger” by Richard Moore. It is the most gripping, exciting, blah, blah, blah, blah about cycling that shows the drama, intrigue, and gritty blah, blah, blah of the human blah. Every time I finish reading a book about bicycles I smash out the windows, kick the dog, and swear that I’ll never, ever read one again. Until the next time.

Then I pass it on to a close friend as the ultimate measure of passive aggression.

Anyway, “Slaying the Badger,” which is well written and not completely uninteresting, reveals some shocking, little known facts about Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond. For example:

  • Hinault was not a nice person.
  • LeMond was a whiny little bitch.
  • Winning the Tour is hard.
  • Cycling is hard.
  • Hard races are won by hard men.
  • Hardy, har, har

The book was so successful that ESPN made it into a full-length motion picture of 30 minutes, which is 29 minutes longer than the attention span of the very smartest football fan. So basically, now that it’s a video, no one will ever read the book.

My biggest criticism is that the author left out my own experiences with Hinault, which confirmed that which no one ever doubted: He is truly an asshole. However, sometimes a monstrous, self-absorbed asshole runs up against an equally monstrous, equally self-absorbed asshole, and that’s really where the fun begins.

It was at the last stage of the 1985 Coors Classic in Boulder, a crit. Since Hinault had spanked LeMond in the Tour, he agreed to ride for him at the Coors Classic. Greg had it sewn up. Before the race Greg patiently stood in front of an endless line of fans and signed autographs. I waited and he signed a piece of paper for me.

Then I watched the race. Somebody went faster than everybody else and was declared the winner. Immediately after the race, the Badger peeled off the course to head for the hotel. I was standing right next to him as he slowed to about 5 mph. “Monsieur Hinault,” I said in my best French. “Combien pour vos sous-vêtements?”

He snarled just as I realized that I’d asked him how much for his underwear. Then I corrected myself. “Puis-je avoir un autographe?”

“Non,” he snapped, and nastily pedaled away.

Five years later I was an official interpreter at the World Road Race Championships in Utsunomiya, Japan. It was Sunday, September 2, the day of the pro road race. Part of my duties were to secure the entrance to the VIP grandstand. Tanaka-san gave me explicit instructions. “Do not let anyone in here before 8:00 AM.”

“Anyone?” I asked.

“Anyone,” he confirmed.

“Okey-dokey,” I said.

About an hour later the coach of the French national team came up with a couple of other French flunkies. The coach looked suspiciously like the Badger. He was snarling something in such an angry voice that it made spoken French sound like the language of the body snatchers. Hinault barged his way up to the entrance gate, where I stood.

“Move,” he said in English.

I stared down at his tiny smallness. From far atop the mountain of my towering six-feet-two-inches of height I spied the tousle-headed little newt far below me. He craned his neck up and thrust out his chest, which had bristly spines of curly hair angrily poking out from his unbuttoned golf shirt.

“Nope,” I said in French.

“I say move!” he ordered again, this time taking a step forward, grabbing his plastic ID badge with his name on it, and pulling out the lanyard until the badge was stuck under my nose. “You know this, eh?” he snapped.

I slowly read his name out loud, taking my time while he steamed like a clam. “Bernard He-nalt,” I said, giving it my best Texas accent.

“Now you move!” he said, inching closer.

“Look buddy,” I said. “I don’t know who you are, and don’t care if you’re a five-time winner of the Tour de France. Nobody gets in before 8:00 AM. Especially no short people.”

I braced myself for the punch, certain that he’d understood enough to be thoroughly insulted. His face turned bright red and I kept looking at him with a relaxed smile on my face, thinking about that autograph and underwear sale he’d denied me five years earlier in Boulder.

Then the Badger did the unthinkable. He turned on his heel and stormed off. I almost shattered my rib cage from holding in the laughter.

Top that, ESPN.

END

————————-

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog, which is kind of a bargain. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

The things we teach

April 12, 2014 § 19 Comments

Many years ago we lived in a one-room home. The whole interior was a little more than ten tatami mats, or about 178 square feet. That probably sounds small until I tell you that six of us lived there, including one squalling infant. We were building a house on the other side of Utsunomiya, and my wife’s grandfather had allowed us to stay in one of his rental units until the house was finished. Our furnishings consisted of a small TV and low table. We lived there for eight months, but I don’t remember ever being cramped.

What I remember is the morning ride to kindergarten.

I had the biggest Bridgestone commuter bike that they sold at the local bike shop, a 55cm monster that, even with the seat jacked all the way up, was much too small. It had fenders, 30mm all-beef commuting tires, and a kickstand, but the piece of resistance was the add-on that they installed at the time of purchase: a kiddy seat.

The kiddy seat was a wire basket contraption with two flimsy cushions, foot pegs, and leg guards to keep the passenger’s legs out of the spokes. It mounted onto the rear bike rack and had a fixed handlebar so that the kiddy could grip in the event that circumstances became rough or unstable. There was no seatbelt of any kind.

Rough and unstable circumstances

My eldest daughter was in kindergarten, and due to our temporary location I had to pedal her across town every morning, a solid 20-minute commute in heavy traffic. They say that a child’s personality is formed at birth, and whether that’s true or not, it’s definitely formed after your first trip to kindergarten in a wire basket on the back of my commuter bike.

Ours was no normal commute, either, because of the Tobu Hill. This was a very short, steep, 200m downhill that swooped under the Tobu train line and flattened out at the traffic light on Heisei Dori. The road was narrow and even had a segregated bike path, but you couldn’t get any speed on the bike path so my daughter and I always opted for the lane. Well, she never opted for anything. She just hunkered low in the basket and gripped the bars survival tight.

The beauty of that little drop was that you could get a good head of steam, and if you got lucky and hit the traffic light green or mostly yellow and there was no oncoming traffic you could take the wide slightly cambered right-hander out into a clean 4-lane road. A full-speed sprint down the hill and a lucky light meant that we could sweep through the turn at a solid 35+, the bike in full lean, the tires at the limit of their grip, and the taste of fear dry and exhilarating and bitter roiling at the back of my tongue.

My daughter never complained, never cried, and never asked me not to do it, although upon reflection she never asked me to do it, either. She wore the cutest of kindergarten outfits, Japanese cute, a cuteness that only generations skilled in the art of tiny and cute could ever produce, and part of the uniform was a hat with a drawstring. At 35mph in full lean, the drawstring wasn’t strong enough to keep the hat on her head, of course. The times I looked back at her, usually after reaching terminal velocity but before hitting the hopefully green light, she always looked the same.

She would be staring calmly ahead, tilted in the seat so that she could see around me, a faint smile on her face, with one hand holding the handlebar in a vicegrip and the other mashing her hat onto her head so that the wind didn’t carry it away. If there was fear in her eyes as she pondered the onrushing and immediate future, it never showed.

Neither of us, of course, wore a helmet.

The  great Utsunomiya World Championship Road Race

One morning we were sitting in traffic. As the light turned green and we began to move, a fancy road rider whizzed by. “Good morning!” I said, but he ignored us.

I looked back at my daughter. “That rude bastard,” I said. “Let’s catch him!”

She didn’t agree, but she didn’t disagree, either. She only peered around me to get a better look at our quarry, casually took one hand off the handlebar and clamped her palm to her hat. She knew that whatever was going to happen next it would involve high winds and turbulence.

The Bridgestone was a solid 30 pounds and Sakura was another 35 or 40, and I happened to only be wearing flip flops, so the bike wasn’t exactly quick off the line. However, once you got that giant lump of chromoly up to speed, it had momentum, and lots of it.

Packed in the middle of tight traffic I was able use the cars to draft my way up to about 30mph. Inches off the bumpers of car death I went faster and faster until my legs really started to burn and my breathing became painful and my body had to viciously sway from side to side to beat the pedals hard enough to keep up the speed. I could feel her weight shifting behind me as the bike rocked side to side.

The speed picked up and I hunkered down in the draft. Through the car’s windshield I could see the roadie up ahead as well as the car’s speedometer. We were over 35mph and the bike was starting to shimmy. My legs tore at the pedals and I was buried in the red. We approached a giant traffic intersection, and our draft was the last car that was going to make the light, which had turned yellow. The roadie had already come to a stop.

The Toyota I was drafting gunned it and got me up to forty before he pulled away. The bike was in full shimmy. Braking was not an option as I prepared to sail out into the intersection. I turned my head and stopped pedaling in preparation for the moment we’d shoot past the stopped roadie. Buzzing as close to him as I could, I said, “Good morning again!” and we rocketed by as if we’d been discharged from a Soviet work camp.

Judging from his gape, he’d never been passed by a dude in flip flops on a bike with a kickstand hauling a kid in a basket. At forty miles an hour. I’m sure the fact that I wasn’t pedaling added to the mysterious nature of the public humiliation.

My daughter is twenty-five and she still rides a bicycle, though her smile is wider and, you know, she wears a helmet.

END

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with utsunomiya world championships at Cycling in the South Bay.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 807 other followers