Tuesday, February 17, 2015
The Day Pantani Wouldn't Ride
I think it was 1998 if I recall, at the Tour, and Pantani and others staged a sit-in protest, refusing to ride they said, because they disagreed with how the riders were being treated. That year at the Tour was massive. Of the 200 or so starters, less than 50% finished - many of them tossed for various forms of blood doping or otherwise caught up in The Festina Affair. It was as bad as it ever got, the legend goes. Riders with suppositories in their shorts, bags full of blood on motorbikes; this was the sport personified as an addict, on a complete bender, right at the very bottom, and about to get put into rehab. Pantani, like many others, and with emotions that we can only begin to guess at, protested - though they didn't really proclaim innocence. For them, it was hate the game, don't hate the player. We did both.
This past Friday, about 48 hours before the Pantani ride would have otherwise gone live in 12 degree temps with 40 mph winds, and for the first time ever, we cancelled it. And we've ridden The Pantani in some notoriously bad conditions too, so I guess cancellation really says something. Just too dangerous to promote sending anyone out on a 50 mile road race, let alone your friends on a ride that is purely for the glory. Hours later, by sheer coincidence and completely unrelated, I got fired from the same job I've had for the last 8 years. It was a bewildering afternoon.
You never really think about the race going on without you. Life is like that. It's tough to visualize the planet continuing to spin and people having conversations in your absence and life itself sustaining even when you are gone. But that's what happens. One moment you're in the thick of it, worth something tangible and making the tough decisions about what has to be done, and the next moment your phone and internet are shut off, and aside from the sort purr of freehubs pulling away or your laptop powering down one last time, you're left with an absolute hush of silence. The speed at which you can be spat out the back is remarkable.
I ran into Bouber at the gym, and Belgian though he is, he agreed with cancelling the ride. I think most people felt that way. Or at least most people were glad to have an excuse not to go. Or they went anyway and, quite possibly, perished out there. This is the fascinating nature of a non-event event that didn't happen. Metro, please check in with your whereabouts.
I wonder what Pantani thought about sitting there that day, absolutely guilty as charged, and yet still remarkable and defiant. He looks sad. He looks angry. He looks hungry. Or maybe that's just me. I look at that photo, and he's still my hero, but he's on limited time now...and I can see the door is about to close.
Rescheduling The Pantani Ride would take some work. It's just the nature of events - you lose credibility, your audience, fans, attendees, and a little bit of yourself when you can't deliver. If doping were an option to fix it, you'd take it. I get it, Marco. So maybe this is what you need anyway.
So here's the plan: where one door closes, another opens, and for Pantani X 2015 reconciliation we're going asynchronous and digital. Go put yourself a little crew together, go ride The Pantani route sometime (anytime) between now and the Ohill race (March 15), post your honest time in whatever format you deem legit, and I'll put your name on the leaderboard. Strava not required. It does require, of course, that you use a watch, clear your schedule for the day, pick the right bike for the job, pack your own lunch, find the right group of friends, and successfully navigate the course - all things you have to do anyway. So not much changes besides the face that you'll be doing this thing without 90 other cold, bewildered souls in tow. Just you and your crew this time around.
If ten years of The Pantani Ride have taught me anything, it's when you've bet more chips than you actually have. My apologies to anyone who feels the thing should have gone forward, regardless of weather, and that cancelling it somehow cheapens the DIY, non-event, Sisyphean nature of it.
For you, especially, the rock is still rolling.
Go push it.
Up, up, up.