Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I just want to say THANKS to the head of my fan club in Australia. He's a great guy, someone who has supported me through a difficult moment, and whose kindness and compassion I will forever cherish. Despite his own personal hardship, he takes the time to ring me from down under, and try to cheer me up. That's class, and it reinforces my belief in the kindheartedness of Aussie's in general.

Many of you have written asking for an update on the situation with Yuliet. I really appreciate your support, and I wish I had better news. As it stands, however, there is no update, other than to say Yuliet is in Cuba. Beyond that exists only speculation.

I am always struck by the novelty of cyclingnews.com's published interviews with European cycling stars who were passing through difficult times, whether in or out-of-competition. Most of these interviews are lifted from publications like La Gazzetta dello Sport, or recorded in European press conferences before being translated into english. Thus, the riders were typically speaking in their native tounges. I think the #1 english word that appears in this reports is "tranquil."

For example, Basso says: "I remain prudent and tranquil and will keep counting on my team to protect me."

Cunego says, "For my first time, I continue to be a little nervous but I am trying to remain tranquil."

Salvodelli says, " "I did not panick when a slipped behind. I was tranquil in the most difficult moments of the stage..."

In Spanish, they say "tranquilo," in Italian "calma."

It's a state of mind, and I'm not there right now. I'm 31 years old right now. I rode my first full european season this year. The last time I touched a bike was 23 July, and I sold all of my equipment because I wanted to support my wife financially. For a variety of reasons, it is unlikely that I will return to full-time competition in 2007 and I am not finishing my career on my own terms.

That's the way of this universe, however, and whilst bitter, it is a pill that eventually I have to swallow. Right now I feel like your dog, when you're trying to give him his medicine and he's having none of it. Before I officially announce my retirement, however (if that is the ultimate course of action), I'd like to pen one more diary for cyclingnews.com, in which I share with the up-and-coming riders of this generation the salient lessons learned in 10+ years of elite biking . I think Lesson #1 would be to maintain an identity outside of our sport, so that if an abrupt transition befalls you too, you're capable of seamlessly moving into your post-cycling life. I most decidely have not had an easy transition during the last three months, and it's made me realize the utter necessity of maintaing strong ties with family, friends and colleagues outside of the comeptitive world. This is not to say that elite riders who are not making thousands and thousands of dollars as competitive athletes should not be 100% focused on their sport. Rather, it's simply a view from the trenches, that one day the circus tears down the big top, and prepare yourself for a life less glamorous, or at least your own personal moment that is less-than-tranquil.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Why is Uruguay Great? Because of its people...

Estimado Joe.-
Gracias por vuestra atenta nota!.- Eres siempre bienvenido a Minas!!
Sin dudas que el vivir en una ciudad grande es muy stressante, sin embargo en ciudades pequeñas o paìses pequeños como el Uruguay la vida es màs tranquila, segura y saludable.-
Nuestro Departamento de Lavalleja tiejne bellezas naturales que son inigualables y los que viven en èl tienen una caracterìstica muy particular y es que son muy hospitalarios.-
Tu lo habràs comprobado con la Flìa. Castro quienes son excelentes personas.-
Te paso nuestra WEB, asi puedes estar enterado frecuentemente de lo que pasa por aquì.-

Te saluda muy cordialmente y estamos a tus gratas òrdenes.-
Ademar Rubi
Director de Turismo de Lavalleja

When I retire with my first $8 million, it will be to Uruguay.
"Beware of hubris. For it is the single vulnerable point in your armor. After arrogance, obsession ranks second as a common flaw. Each of us should strive for our best, but maintain balance and moderation as well. Disproportionate ambition is a tremendous liability, and it often leads us to do crazy things in our determination to dominate others."

This then, would seem to indicate the necessity of moderation in my approach to being reunited with Yuliet?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sociedad Southron

I lived in Minas, Uruguay with my teammate Gerardo Castro and his family during the Uruguayan summers of 2002-3 and 2003-4. The time I spent in Lavalleja (the Uruguayan "department" in which Minas is located) was some of the happiest of my life, and I remember it fondly.

Since returning from Italy, I've corresponded somewhat irregularly with The Southron, a very interesting American ex-pat living in Montevideo. I wrote about my experiences in Uruguay several times for my diary on CyclingNews.com. The Southron, however, writes a kick-ass blog from Uruguay - UruguayLiving.com - that he updates regularly, and he is leading the rapid organization of the english-speaking ex-pat community there.

Uruguay is the one country that I would move to *right now* if I had the prospects of gainful employment there, and The Southron is doing a great job chronicling why it is such a great place. Granted, I hated Uruguay and all things Uruguayan after I was robbed of my rightful victory in the Vuelta a Uruguay in 2003, but I'm over that now.

Check out UruguayLiving.com and get a taste for the American experience in Montevideo, and tell him I sent you.
Compassion and Responsibility for Action

An act of compassion is often an act that restores balance...The compassionate person tries to resolve problems by rebalancing. Sometimes the action required is gentle. Sometimes it must be violent. Those who are skillful at doing the right thing at the right time and in the right proportion are said to be superior among people: their actions are flawless and seamless.

To accept the importance of balance in our lives is to acknowledge consequences. Retribution follows wrongdoing. This does not happen because there is some karmic police agency ready to mete out punishment for the slightest infraction. Nor will the gods and devils pursue you for all your misdeeds.

There is retribution because when you do bad things, you create misery that remains attached to you in some way or another. Perhaps someone will come back to take out their resentment on you, or perhaps you will make some future mistake because of your shortsighted behaivor. Selfishness isolates you from others because you cease to care about even simple communication. Gradually your thinking will change, to the point that you cannot even convceive of what you are doing wrong, and so you will fall by your own folly. No one - except your own mind - is recording anyting. But that is devestating enough. "Divine justice" is the web of flaws that we wrap our lives in. There is no heaven, and there is no hell. There doesn't need to be. Our hubris is the quintessential form of retribution. We create our own suffering.

-Deng Ming-Dao


Did you know I'm Irish? Right, isn't everyone?! In this case it's true, however. My family comes from Achill Island, in the village of Pollagh, County Mayo. I have a passport to prove it.

If Yuliet is ever released from wherever it is that she is being held, and if we are ever reunited and have children, imagine this scenario: we're living in Uruguay as legal residents, our child is born there, it could possibly hold four nationalities: Irish and US by me, Cuban by Yuliet and Uruguayan by virtue of being born in Uruguay. I don't know if that works or not, but the kid would at least have three citizenships, if we decide to register it as a foreign-born Cuban. I have a friend who was born of US parents in Spain, and he tried to claim Spanish citizenship but told me that he ulimately couldn't. While the Spanish government would grant him citizenship as a result of his having been born in Glalicia or wherever it was, he said that the stipulation was that he renounce his US citizenship. I don't think so...

China Trains Horoscope - Gemini

Trains in China are divided into two different sections: soft seats and hard seats. "The soft seats are usually where you find the richer, stiffer, better-educated people," reports Charlotte Temple in DoubleTake magazine. "In the hard-seat section, it's like a little village. Everyone is eating watermelon seeds, playing games, leaning out windows to buy from the dumpling sellers." I bring this up, Gemini, because it's an apt metaphor for the choice you now face. As you travel on to the next phase of your life, the soft seats would provide the greatest comfort, but the most interesting and educational events would unfold in the hard seats.

We are all human with frailties, foibles, and insecurities. We each need to be appreciated for the uniqueness that makes us individual, and we need to be told that we are appreciated. Maintaining friendships requires effort and persistent expression, both in word and deed. Tell your friends often how much you appreciate them. Remember occasions that are important to them. Congratulate them upon their achievements. Most important of all, let them know that you are there for them whenever they need you.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Mike Fraysse

Someone who has been like a father to me since I first met him in 1995. He thought I was crazy to marry Yuliet, and he might yet be proven right, but I appreciate his unwavering, limitless support. Thanks, Mike!



"We all have short memories. We become preoccupied with our own interests and daily cares, and it’s easy to lose track of friends. There will always be times when you must choose between what you wish to do and what you must do. When you are faced with such decisions, make sure you always remember those true and loyal friends who were there when you needed them, and never, under any circumstances, abandon them. When you let down a friend who helped you when you needed it most, you will not only adversely affect the friendship; you will seriously damage your own self-respect. When you fail a friend, regardless of how heavy your own burdens may be, you also fail yourself. If you absolutely cannot do what good friends would like, find another way to make it up to them."

This is one that I'm going to remember with all of my heart as I move forward through this difficult moment. Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive during a time that can only be described as FUBAR... KC, CB, Dave, Jeb, Mom, Jenn, etc., etc., thanks.

Until last week, it was 17 years since I last went to church or thought about God in any manner other than to say, "God damn." However, with the horror and pain of Yuliet's disappearance, well, you can imagine that I'm thinking about God a lot right now. I wanted to share this compassionate prayer that was said on behalf of Yuliet and me by a concerned friend...

"Father you are so strong and miraculous. You are the Creator of everything. You can do all Things, you are a Mountain mover. Father forgive us for our sins Lord. We all have sins that we are not proud of Lord just take all of our sins. Carry them for us Lord... Forgive us now. We thank you Jesus that you died for us so that we may be forgiven. We thank you Lord Jesus that you are always there, when we think you aren't. I thank you for listening to our prayer and forgiving us. Thank you for our life that we have. Thank you for the blessings of all we can do. Lord please be with Yuliet, please LORD bring her back to Joe safe and sound with open arms if it be your will. Please Lord give Yuliet and Joe your strength at this time Lord. I pray Lord that they know you as I do, a Loving Forgiving God that will always be there for us. Even in times like these. I pray all these things in your name... Amen"

So I really appreciated that prayer, and as I struggle to come to terms to what has happened to Yuliet and what it means for our futures, I will keep this close to my heart.