Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Desire (to Return to Cycling)

Says Napoleon Hill (& not Paolo Bettini): "EVERYTHING YOU CREATE OR ACQUIRE BEGINS IN THE FORM OF DESIRE. In order to act, you must have a purpose. If you want to act successfully in all but the most mundane affairs, you must embrace that purpose with a burning desire. Many people think they want to be successful, but since they do not back that thought with an intense drive, they never achieve success. Cultivate your desire. Feed it with thoughts of yourself enjoying whatever it is you seek. It’s like stoking the furnace of a steam engine. You need to build up enough pressure to carry yourself over hills; if your desire doesn’t burn hotly enough, you’ll find yourself stalled and rolling backwards. The secret to action is a red-hot desire."

Despite self-sabotage via 6α-OH-androstenedione and/or 6β-OH-androsterone, I have a desire to return to cycling, to be an active participant in the sport that became part of my DNA (undetectable pre-Gene Doping mutation? lol) in 1989, if not sooner. When your desire is red-hot, yet you are stymied at every turn by officials, those with intent, circumstance and coincidence, where do you go? I'm open for suggestions on this, people, since I'm not irredeemable.

I was born to work (and play) in and for this sport. I cannot be more definite or clear in stating that cycling was to be my life's work - still is, no matter what mistakes I've made and what penalties remain to be paid. I think few people are lucky (or cursed) enough to find something about which they are so passionate that it, in a way, becomes part of their being, but that's what cycling is for me. The transformation didn't take long - my dad was dead in May of '89; I received a road bike shortly thereafter; I rode my first club race that summer and finished dead last. I fumbled around through 1990, starting regular club racing in the "C's" with my local club, the ACA; by 1991 I was State Champion and had ridden well in the criterium at junior nationals. I wrote my first sponsorship proposal in 1991 and PowerBar was one of the first companies to back me.

I also reached out to the USCF in '91, asking - as a 16 year-old - how to develop a career in cycling. Their response is below. Amy L. Johnson, then of USCF, if you're out there, drop me a line.

By 1993, my last year as a Junior, I was already Cat. 1, had raced against Hincapie, Barry, McRae, Julich, etc. (while they were Seniors) and the following year I turned pro in the NCL. I thought that if I wasn't a rider, I'd certainly want Todd K's job as the team's manager, and thanks to Franco Harris I raced in Europe twice that summer. But it was in the Vuelta a Venezuela later that year that I had a predestination-like moment that confirmed for me that cycling was to be my life's work.

I don't remember the stage, the details aren't that important but for the fact that the team from la Lotería del Táchira (supposedly the oldest team in the world, according to this article in Spanish, with Google Translated version here) was on the front riding tempo. I sat directly behind their last rider, and at one point, their team director drove up alongside the squad (in a white car, with custom euro-style roof racks that I remember to this day) and delivered rapid-fire orders in Spanish, along with a water bottle or two. I wish a had a photo of that moment, because it was then that I could feel in my soul that cycling would be my life, one part of which I would spend as a team director on the road, just like that old Venezuelan from Táchira. I felt this in my soul.

Laugh all you want. Comments are moderated so you can't drop hate here, but I knew that I wanted to spend my life in cycling, racing, developing the sponsorships that would support teams, directing the teams, managing athletes, serving cycling in an administrative capacity, promoting races...that one, brief exchange of info between a team director and his riders that I witnessed burned this feeling so deeply into my soul that even a period of three years in which I forced myself NOT to touch a bike couldn't purge it.

Some children grow-up knowing from an early age that they want to be doctors. Others are destined to be lawyers because that's what their parent did. There are even those who are born to be soldiers, following the proud family tradition and serving in their country's armed forces - just like father, grandfather and great-grandfather did before them... And somehow I pop out of the womb in Parma, Ohio and grow up in a family about as far removed from European pro cycling as possible, yet the desire to earn a living in this sport and to dedicate my professional career to it was manifest so early, with such force and tenacity, and has survived through the hell of the past three years that it might as well be programmed into my DNA.

But how do I get there from here?

11 comments:

  1. How do you get there from here?

    Two hints/suggestions:

    (i) Don't stop making progress

    (ii) Have a plan, be willing to make the plan adaptable as circumstances change, but have a plan.

    FWIW I think that there are those who don't ride a bike; there are those that do; and then there are those that really "get" cycling. Really get it.

    Welcome to the third category.

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  2. Dude, you're fucked. Cycling will never have you back, and the anti-doping movement will shortly disavow you once you're no longer of use to them, or you become politically too dangerous. You probably have a plan if you've wanted cycling since age 13 or whatever. But, my friend, the DOORS ARE SHUT FOR YOU FOREVER B/C YOU BROKE THE OMERTA AND YOU WEREN'T AS TALENTED AS DAVID MILLAR. Sorry to have to say what everyone but you seems to know, but you should forget about trying to make a living in cycling. You were ok as a rider, few make money like Lance or Basso anyway, you might be a brilliant team owner/manager, but no one is going to take a risk on you. YOU ADMITTED TO BEING A LYING, CHEATING, UNETHICAL bastard, and you made the mistake of NOT BLAMING THE SYSTEM! See?! In actually taking responsibility for what you did, you make it impossible for anyone to justify giving you a second chance. Too much risk. You might "cheat" again. Sorry. Good luck though.

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  3. Since you claim to be Czech...17 September, 2009 15:11

    Ty vole, ty jsi v prdeli. Jízda na kole nikdy nebude mít zpátky, a anti-doping hnutí brzy distancovat od vás, jakmile jste již použití na ně, nebo jste byli politicky příliš nebezpečné. Pravděpodobně máte plán, pokud jste chtěli na kole od věku 13 nebo cokoliv jiného. Ale, můj přítel, dveře zavřené PRO VÁS FOREVER B / C lámeš Omerta A jste nebyli talentovaní žáci AS David Millar. Líto, že musím říci, co všichni ale vypadá, že zná, ale neměli byste zapomenout se snaží vydělat na živobytí v cyklistice. Byl jsi v pořádku jako jezdec, málo vydělat peníze jako Lance nebo Basso přesto, můžete být skvělý tým majitele / manažera, ale nikdo se chystá vzít riziko na vás. YOU přiznala, že lhaní, podvádění, neetické bastard, a jste udělali tu chybu, že nevyčítám SYSTEM! Vidíš?! Ve skutečnosti nést odpovědnost za to, co jste dělali, budete dělat to nemožný pro každého, kdo k ospravedlnění která vám druhou šanci. Příliš velké riziko. Které by vás mohly "podvádět" znovu. Omlouvat se. Hodně štěstí ačkoli.

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  4. Joe, love the Napoleon Hill thing. My wife got heavy into that and then The Secret. There is something to it. You will find your place. Maybe I've been in Northern California too long and taken too many yoga classes and buddhist seminars, but you will go where you put your energy. Maybe cycling journalism is your path. Look at Joe Parkin's A Dog In A Hat. Write a book. Unexpected doors will open and unexpected people will help you along the way. Don't give up. if you put the energy and belief out there, you'll be a DS someday. Matt at Twisted Spoke

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  5. Thanks, Matt. Maybe the life of itinerant cycling scribe is what it is to be... :)

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  6. Joe,
    Plan A: i see you making a comeback in south america.
    why there? your rep/media profile is not as toxic to the officials of the sport there.
    if you're single, so much the better. u'll be more mobile.
    invest in some Spanish cd's, but know that u'll also have to start to learn the street vernacular
    from anyone around where u now live. INVEST YOUR TIME & a little $.
    WRITE DOWN A PLAN. it doesn't have to be a perfect plan.
    BUT, be SPECIFIC about what U want.
    LET GO OF THE USA and all it's conveniences.
    Plan B: Portugal

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  7. Truth be Told:

    I never pretended not to be aware of the issues you raised - I've just tried to push them aside and plod along through this particular phase, taking my lumps as the come while cultivating a few close allies. It's not necessarily game-changing that Floyd has come out, at least not for me, since he was an infinitely better rider than me and didn't get caught up in doping to the extent that I did. If Lance faces criminal charges for something like money laundering, however, all bets are off.

    Since you claim to be Czech...

    Are you guys twins or did you just use Google Translate? Truth be told, I am a dual-citizen, though Ireland is the other country cursed to have me as a national. My grandparents on my mother's side were Czech and she's fluent - though my father (who had an Irish mother and a Hungarian father - that's where "Papp" comes from) prohibited her from teaching the language to my brother and me. So I learned Spanish instead... I think your best line, besides "Ty vole, ty jsi v prdeli." is "Ve skutečnosti nést odpovědnost za to, co jste dělali, budete dělat to nemožný pro každého, kdo k ospravedlnění která vám druhou šanci." Yeah, who would have thought that honesty would hurt so bad... I'm of two minds about it, b/c on one hand you could deny deny deny and possibly weasel into a spot in cycling, but then four years later still crack like Floyd and admit everything, or tell the truth and spare yourself one form of psychological torture (while ensuring you experience another??) and try to move forward in a life w/o a direct role in pro cycling, but with a clear conscience.

    Anon 24 May - thanks for the suggestion on Latin America or Portugal. At first I thought you meant that I should invest in Spanish certificates of deposit, but then I realized you might have meant language learning CD's? In that case, I'll skip the Spanish ones but buy the Portuguese lessons, since "obrigado" is the only word I remember.

    Speaking of which, Obrigado to everyone for their comments.

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  8. joe, yes i meant language cd's.
    and i didn't mean returning to the trade as a racer.
    i meant workin' into one of the structural
    positions on a team or industry R&D effort.
    u havve valuable skills & knowledge of what does and doesn't work.
    chuckie

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  9. Chuckie, thanks for the follow-up and additional clarification. It's all appreciated and definitely being funneled into the life calculator that I got for my birthday last week.

    As an aside, Sam Abt (my favorite cycling journalist - though he's really a sportswriter and not a specialist in cycling anymore) had a great piece up on Gibo' and the Giro and retirement:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/21/sports/cycling/21iht-BIKE.html

    Great to see such honesty from Simoni, admitting basically that he wanted off of the bike b/c of how he was suffering. I felt that way after my first race in Italy in 2006 (and that was after finishing second to my teammate!), but the feeling was definitely temporary and I didn't experience the humiliation of an entire season's worth of that kind of suffering. I think that's what particularly vexes me, since even though I don't want to really return to full-time racing now, I know that I didn't want to stop racing full-time then, and the result is an annoying dissatisfaction and feeling of having been prevented (by my own poor decisions) from racing for as long as I wanted to. Plain and simple, now if you asked me what my dream job would be I'd say cycling team business manager (as opposed to director sportif). I wouldn't reject the role of a hands-on director, but would find the slightly-more intellectual (or paperwork-focused) role of manager more fulfilling (think Jim Ochowicz vs Gavin Chilcott or John Lelangue).

    I'm not at the point of regretting my cycling experiences (hardly), but I'd encourage any aspiring full-time racers (or those who've made it to the point that they earn some kind of living - even a bad one - from cycling) to invest some time into figuring out at least three actionable plans for life after your work as an athlete. Because there is nothing worse than going from the near-fantasy world of elite cycling to not being an athlete any more, especially when it happens over the course of two days, a week or even a month.

    I repeat: make a plan for after biking, while you're still biking! Maybe this was obvious for everyone but me, but it bears repeating just in case there is someone else who's on the same fanciful, oblivious path that I was.

    Thanks for reading everyone, and please stop back. I'll post something new soon (I hope). Lots going on behind the scenes right now and little time or energy for blogging. Though check out this thread at the cyclingnews.com Forum and add your thoughts on when to retire if you're a Euro-pro, and who should have done so awhile ago:

    http://forum.cyclingnews.com/showthread.php?t=7776

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  10. When you wrote this, you were dealing in EPO to cyclists. You are one self-centered dude.

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  11. Anon 2:19 - no, I wasn't.

    I can appreciate your hostility, but it's misplaced if your accusation remains as stated.

    Beyond this - and I address the following to critics and supporters alike - there is far more "to the story" than what is in the public record, and what some people assume they know.
    That said, I don't plan to discuss any aspects of the case not already reported, or refute accusations that are based on incomplete information.

    Cycling is a complex sport, played out on a global stage by an international cast that pedals to their own unique rhythm. When doping corrupts that show, it becomes surreal and even more difficult to understand for those on the outside. As I've said before, I would need to write a book to explain all of this intelligibly.

    But I'm not about to write that book now, while a side-show of secret and hidden drama plays on.

    I'd go back in time and choose not to involve myself with doping, if I had that power. But since I can't, what's left for me is to contribute as requested to the fight for a cleaner, less-corrupt cycling - an effort in which I'm engaged in various roles now.

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