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?