The most useful writing advice I have ever received was also the simplest: Don't worry too much about the beginning, just begin. So off we go...
I never knew Wouter Weylandt. I never met Xavier Tondo. I was never lucky enough to see these two gentlemen kit up and fly past in a professional bike race but over the past two weeks mourned their deaths like family members. The first death too many of us watched unfold in the midst of Italy's grand cycling tour, the Giro d'Italia. The second death happened just two days ago in a bizarre accident while preparing for training.
Both these men are part of something bigger than a race. It's hard to explain the camaraderie of the bike. It can't be seen from anywhere other than in the saddle. When you leave your car at home, pack your cell phone away and put two wheels on pavement, magic starts to happen. The city transforms into someplace different. The pace of life moves a little more in tune. The people who meet in the saddle have a little more in common.
Out on the road there are few lies and no secrets. Every ounce of power goes from rider to pedal to bike to road. Distractions fade and life becomes simple: Push the pedals, keep moving forward, don't stop. Cycling is the great equalizer. It gives you as much power as you can create yourself, as much freedom as you can handle, and as much pain as you can dish out.
Whether it's riding a grand tour or a lap up Lookout Mountain, the pleasure in the pain is the same. This is why losing starts of the sport reverberates around the world. We've never ridden side by side but we've shared the pleasure in the pain. The scars of road rash, the embarrassment of being dropped from the group, the training rides and pee breaks. It all adds up to something bigger.
I get made fun of all the time for funny spandex outfits, ridiculous tan lines, shaved legs and watching skinny pro's race each other for pink jersey on T.V. and I don't mind a bit. I'll never be the fastest or the best but I'm not alone. There's plenty of us in it together.
We may have lost two of our warriors in these past few weeks but what they stood for will live on. The road will still be there. Hiding nothing and asking for everything. Xavier and Wouter may be gone but they, like I, will always have a place kept for them. We'll always be welcomed with the Gentlemen of The Road.