Choose Your Parents Wisely

Choose Your Parents Wisely

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Evelyn Stevens was working on Wall Street four years ago and is now the best American women cyclist. How is that possible? Her parents must be enjoying dinner with pulses of 40 bpm and sky high VO2 maxes. Are they both professional marathon runners? Is that how they met? Maybe they have never attempted aerobic sports. If Evelyn has siblings and they are not professional athletes, I hope they are taking advantage of their superior aerobic thresholds, somehow, like hustling people at the city public lake. It’s easy money.

Hey youth, fifty bucks says I can swim across the lake faster than you, with this cigarette in my mouth.

No way tubby, you are on.

It’s a source of frustration for me as I bump my head against the low ceiling of my genetic limitations. “You can be whatever you want to be!” That is such nonsense. Every professional rider is a genetic freak, they certainly aren’t physiologically normal. It’s not all hard work and desire. It may be all hard work, desire and a better than average cardiovascular system. Training, weight loss, diet will bring one up to one’s own maximum fitness but we are all bracketed by how we chose our parents. Having the perfect amount of dumb may be my only professional qualification. I don’t want to be a pro, I just want to casually crush my friends and I can’t.

Greg LeMond did a fantastic job choosing his parents. As a junior he was beating the best seniors in the country. As a twenty-two year old he was winning the World Championship. LeMond took his natural talent and went out there, got his ass handed to him and kicked some ass too. I admire his jumping into the deep end when Sean Kelly and Bernard Hinault were already in the pool, waiting for him. I like Andy Schleck less because I sense he is relying more on his natural talent than hard work.

The guys I really admire are the ones who are dealt a less generous genetic hand and still make it into the professional ranks and get a little glory. Ludo Dierckxens is my kind of rider. He was working full time painting trucks at the DAF factory yet training after work and racing on the weekends. The selection to become a professional rider in Belgium must be the toughest in the world. At age thirty he signed his first contract for Saxon (?!) in 1994 and strung together professional contracts until he landed on Lampre in 1998. In 1999 he won the Belgian Road Championship and won the 11th stage in the Tour. Most professionals would be happy with those palmares.

Fabian Wegmann is another great rider to watch, he always looks to be on the edge of anaerobic destruction, dying just to stay on a wheel. I can relate to that.

But enough of the professionals, I’m a little sick of them right now. We are the ideal cyclists. We ride for the fun rather than the money. We get all the pleasure and as much pain as we care to endure and then as much as it takes to get back to the house. It is perfect.

Early on as a cyclist I understood I had chosen my parents badly. I wasn’t paying attention. I take that bit of information, fold it up and put it away in a drawer when I go out on the bike. I am still healthy enough to ride myself into the ground. Occasionally I can outsmart someone, or scrub off less speed in the corners or use my awesome mass to distance people on descents. I may get shelled when the road goes up but I’m going to look good when it happens. I take my quiet little victories when I can.

This video is a bit the of 2006 Giro Lombardia.  Wegmann is the last man still with il Grillo as the race gets serious. Wegmann drops his flash light deep in the pain cave. Enjoy.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZUwQSQHiKs[/youtube]

 

// Look Pro

  1. @tessar  You, my friend, suck. I want your parents. Luckily, the time wasted on the couch doesn’t really matter. The best (?) US marathon runner, Bill Rodgers used to watch the race while smoking cigs. It somehow occurred to him maybe he should try running. Especially with endurance sports, where you don’t peak until late twenties and early thirties, you can arse* around a lot.

    *my new favorite expression

  2. @itburns

    Support guy – “Well, I don’t think you will have any problem catching up.”

    His impressions were 100% from following The VVay and 0% from my form.

    So you mean he wasn’t offering you a “sticky bidon”?  Hell, I would have grabbed his taillight and held on for dear life!

  3. Wow. The look on Wegmann’s face after 3:55 as the cricket chirps up the road is staggering. THAT is why I will always love this sport.

  4. @Ali McKee

    “But enough of the professionals, I’m a little sick of them right now. We are the ideal cyclists. We ride for the fun rather than the money. We get all the pleasure and as much pain as we care to endure and then as much as it takes to get back to the house. It is perfect..”
    Can I be the first to say this is brilliant?
    Brilliant.

    Thanks! I’m glad you like that. It does seem true though. We have it all. We can look pro but not live their rather weird lives. And drink more beer from V-pints then they are allowed.

  5. @Gianni

    Especially with endurance sports, where you don’t peak until late twenties and early thirties, you can arse* around a lot.

    *my new favorite expression

    Arseing around is the state passtime of Hawaii, is it not? Island time and all that?

  6. @mcsqueak In a word, yes.

  7. @Jeff in PetroMetro My 15 yr old drops me like a rock on the climbs. But, I look good on the descent.  Here’s hoping the hardwork I put in now will pay off in a couple years when I can race as a 60+ Masters.

  8. @Mikeweb

    Wow. The look on Wegmann’s face after 3:55 as the cricket chirps up the road is staggering. THAT is why I will always love this sport.

    +1

  9. @Gianni My mom was always miffed that none of her kids did sports with her, so she gifted me an alu Trek for my 18th. It took me nearly two years of casual commuting until I agreed to buy proper clip-less shoes and a pair of shorts. Within a month I could make it up our toughest local climb (slowly and panting, but I managed!) and soon after, I could match and eventually drop her. Things have been going uphill since, as they should for a fella as tall and light as a Schleck or Brownlee.

    I followed her footstep into triathlon and indeed, when it comes to running and cycling, I’m within touching distance of the local elite, who’ve been at it for years. Within a year, I expect to out-gun them on the bike (already matching the best bike-splits) and hit the 38-minute mark for a 10km run. My limiter is swimming, where technique and background matter more than having an aerobic engine the size of a freight train. That said, I do enjoy getting on the bike at the back of the pack, knowing I will hunt them down, one by one.

    When I ride the road-bike, however, I’ve got the pro look nailed. Nu-uh, I won’t embarrass a peloton with my beloved compression sleeves or ludicrous, if effective, bottle mounts.

  10. @mcsqueak

    @Gianni

    Especially with endurance sports, where you don’t peak until late twenties and early thirties, you can arse* around a lot.

    *my new favorite expression

    Arseing around is the state passtime of Hawaii, is it not? Island time and all that?

    They probably have a more mellifluous word for it than “arsing around.”

  11. Great topic Gianni.  “Enough of the professionals” — spot on.

    @Ron

    There wouldn’t be very many Velominati if ridings 6x a week were a requirement.

    Speaking of great pain faces, CA Sorenson:

  12. @Gianni

    @Ali McKee

    “But enough of the professionals, I’m a little sick of them right now. We are the ideal cyclists. We ride for the fun rather than the money. We get all the pleasure and as much pain as we care to endure and then as much as it takes to get back to the house. It is perfect..”
    Can I be the first to say this is brilliant?
    Brilliant.

    Thanks! I’m glad you like that. It does seem true though. We have it all. We can look pro but not live their rather weird lives. And drink more beer from V-pints then they are allowed.

    Yeah, this is a particularly sparkling part of the piece. Nice going, Gianni. Right on. They do live rather weird lives!

    And I actually don’t think I spent enough time in my late teens and early twenties arsing around. Maybe that’s why I had the time & energy to do it in my late twenties, as I blossomed into a Velominatus.

    mcsqueak – “Ride as much as you can to still enjoy it, no more and no less.” I’m going to keep this in mind all the time for the next few weeks. And the next few weeks after that. Very, very good advice.

    Nate – Hmm, I think you’re right. I guess I was just fortunate to have a very flexible schedule the past few years and I really, really lived it up. Now that I’m back to reality I’m have a bit of a hard time not feeling guilty about riding less. But, it’s an overall healthy move for me to work more & ride less right now.

    Cool.

  13. Just need one of those Mavic Ducati bikes to motorpace around with. Carry a photographer and spare wheels.

  14. @Ron

    I guess I’m asking how some of you handle less riding. I know some of you train daily and race and love that. I also know some of you just ride for fun, leisure, and the occasional Communing with Butterflies. I guess I’m worried that I might have to turn in my V-membership card because I’m not hammering it daily for 2-3 hours. I did that for a few years since I had fewer commitments and more time, as I was fucking off with my work.

    I just accept it as the landscape I live and work with in real life. I am an academic and try to slip out the door early for a mid-week ~1 hr, 15 to 20 km ride, and get something ~ 2 or 3hrs in over the weekend, either Sat or Sun…once in a while both days.  I did not race this year, but focused on century/metrics as free weekends allowed.  Got into a CX race a couple weeks ago to justify holding a license this year.  Hope to get a couple more 30 min suffer-fests in before it expires in Dec.  Still, I’m closing in on 3,200 km for the year so I feel pretty good overall, not as good as some…but better than a whole lot of others. Its all relative, and keeping with the theme of this thread, most of the time your really don’t get to choose them and have to work with what (whom) you were born with.  

  15. Mavic Service Moto

  16. Voiture balai — Having the broom wagon following you is one of the most demoralizing experiences for any racer.

  17. Here’s the next car for the family. We do need another car, so it may as well carry bikes.

  18. Mavic Support — Amateurs challenge the Paris-Roubaix cobbles (video)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvJggiOXvYU&feature=player_embedded

  19. Last one — Paris-Roubaix Challenge 2012 (video)

  20. We are the ideal cyclists. We ride for the fun rather than the money.

    Let me put it that way: We (or at least most of us) are spending money to ride for the fun!

  21. GREAT article Gianni! It’s a thought that’s often with me: whether I’m being dropped on the Tuesday night training bash or grinding slowly up an alpine climb whilst communing with butterflies: it’s all my parents fault!

    Nothing to do with the fact that I’m always two months from peaking, my poor diet and excessive alcohol consumption. If only they had blessed me with better genes then I’d be flying up those climbs like il Pirata (only without the performance enhancing and recreational drugs of course, just in case anyone else accuses me of worshiping fallen heroes).

    The associated thought that I often comfort myself with is that it’s much harder for us average cyclists than it is for the pros.

    Take something like a typical mountain stage of the Tour. Five hours perhaps for a pro. But for me: up to eight hours. But the key thing is this: we will both be working at a roughly similar intensity level relative to our genetic abilities, but him for only five hours versus eight for me.

    So, who are the real Hard men and women? The pros? Or us, who will still be flogging ourselves up those climbs three hours after the pro has had his shower, post ride massage and is safely aboard his luxury team bus on his way to the hotel?!

  22. @Mikeweb

    Wow. The look on Wegmann’s face after 3:55 as the cricket chirps up the road is staggering. THAT is why I will always love this sport.

    oh man, the pain on his face.  That is bike racing.  Unbelievable.

  23. Nice one Gianni my friend… ultimately, we ride for fun. The pain and suffering may seem like the furthest thing from fun as we endure it, but the rewards when we come out the other side are well worth it.

    In the last two days I’ve had two of the funnest rides recently (and there have been a lot). Both totally unplanned and opportunistic. After a day of working behind a computer with wind and cloud, the sun peeped through and the gusts died down around 6pm. I wrestled with the ‘shall I/shan’t I’ demons and got on my mtb for a quick loop of a favorite trail. I rode hard on the climb and bombed the downhill, crashing at one point. I came home feeling no matter if I didn’t get to ride again for a few days, that I still had a complete week.

    The next day, a full day in the shop and a shitty disposition due to a huge car repair bill, all I wanted was to have a couple of beers. I saw two of Spoke’s reviewers kitting up for a ride, had a chat and wished I was going out too. Still, beer seemed necessary. I called in at my mate’s shop for the regular Friday social drinks. A couple beers later and an invite for a night ride was put out. More beers and the promise of “a little, easy loop”… 3 hours later, on no food, water run out, motor senses put to the test on trails I’d never ridden, hammered by climbing gurus and I arrived home at 11pm with the feeling of a best-ever ride.

    That’s what it’s all about.

  24. @Mikeweb

    Wow. The look on Wegmann’s face after 3:55 as the cricket chirps up the road is staggering. THAT is why I will always love this sport.

    and the emotion of Bettini shown slo-mo in the last thirty seconds.  That also captures the beauty and pain endured in our sport.  I love Italian cyclists, they know true passion and emotion.

  25. @wiscot Cipollini wore all white, even in the rain!

  26. Great post, Gianni. Hammering home yesterday (late) with backpack and bow tie, I blew past a kid kitted out for a proper ride. He made some comment about me on a singlespeed passing him. I wish I’d just called back: “It’s the genes,” instead of some apologetic “I’m in a hurry and probably not going as far as you…”

    But save a thought for state of mind (which needn’t be genetic). Today, in cold and windy conditions at the end of an incredibly hectic week, I got kitted out in Johnny Cash Black, three weeks from having adhered to Rule #50, and put in 2.5 hours. It wasn’t about looking fabulous, and while I’m sure I owe a great deal to my parents for any athletic ability I might have, the ride had more to do with will and determination to get out in the first place. That’s not genetic: it’s cultivated.

  27. @ken

    So, who are the real Hard men and women? The pros? Or us, who will still be flogging ourselves up those climbs three hours after the pro has had his shower, post ride massage and is safely aboard his luxury team bus on his way to the hotel?!

    I’m sure we are as fried or more so after a long ride. We are working as hard but going slower so we actually suffer a lot longer. I bet no pro would be as wasted as I am after my Sunday group ride. What does all that mean? Who knows.

  28. @Oli

    @wiscot Cipollini wore all white, even in the rain!

    Cipo gets a pass, on everything. He is Cipo.

  29. @czmiel

    We are the ideal cyclists. We ride for the fun rather than the money.

    Let me put it that way: We (or at least most of us) are spending money to ride for the fun!

    True, but after the initial bike purchase it starts to get pretty cheap on the cost/fun ratio.

  30. @Oli Cipollini wore all white, especially in the rain!

    -Fixed your post

    I’ve always thought of my genetic make-up as being a cross between Kip Dynamite and Bea Arthur. In other words, I have to work for every ounce of fitness I get and any interest in being an athlete I’ve had has come of my own motivation and self-discovery.

    That said, I am coming off perhaps the best season of cycling fitness I’ve ever had. Starting on the trainer last New Years in prep for the KT, riding in France and Belgium just to stay with the group, building fitness through the Almanzo, then being one of the two fastest guys in the Tuesday group all summer, and ending with a happy showing in the Heck I did all right. It’s now the season of RWG (Rapid Weight Gain) and I’m praying for loads of snow quickly so I can carry this form into Nordic ski season. Fuck you dad, and I love you mom but you had absolutely nothing to do with this save for a regrettable night in the 60’s.

  31. BTW, Mini Phinney has cemented his role as the most pro looking of pros. Damn that kid looks good on a bike.

  32. By last night my head was about to essplode as I’ve been too busy to ride much or get on the rollers during the week on account of work, etc.  Plus the spinster aunt was arriving for a Hallowe’en weekend visit, augering little riding this weekend.  Said “fuck it” despite W protests and did a very fun litte rid this AM, taking in my favorite descent, an steep little climb and even a bit of gravel all in 35 km.  Been in a good mood ever since.

  33. Congrats Marko, the first Bea Arthur reference on the site. And I agree about mini Phinney, he is bad ass. He speaks fluent Italian and is a future contender for P-R. What’s not to love?

    @brett

    A couple beers later and an invite for a night ride was put out. More beers and the promise of “a little, easy loop”… 3 hours later, on no food, water run out, motor senses put to the test on trails I’d never ridden, hammered by climbing gurus and I arrived home at 11pm with the feeling of a best-ever ride.

    Well done! Night MTB rides are so cool. Not that I’ve done many but being out there with a good head light in the woods in the dark. Beauty.

    And the rides with lots of suffering end up being the ones you remember fondly.

  34. @tessar .  On the subject of VO2Max tests – this older article now looks ….   well, interesting to say the least.  Evans still holds the Australian Institute of Sport all-time VO2Max record, set when he was 19 years old and just starting out on MTB’s.

    http://cozybeehive.blogspot.com.au/2010/02/science-of-cadel-evans-from-dr-david.html

  35. @GeeTee

    @tessar . On the subject of VO2Max tests – this older article now looks …. well, interesting to say the least. Evans still holds the Australian Institute of Sport all-time VO2Max record, set when he was 19 years old and just starting out on MTB’s.

    http://cozybeehive.blogspot.com.au/2010/02/science-of-cadel-evans-from-dr-david.html

    Cadel was racing MTB from pre-teens, and finished 5th in a (Pro) World Cup at 16.

    http://spokemagazine.com/2011/07/26/2011-tour-de-france-winner-cadel-evans-back-in-1994/

  36. One of the things that keeps me coming back here (other than the tips on how to look fantastic, obviously) is the number of articles that you guys write that make me think about the sport a bit more.

    My mate who I started mountain biking with back in the early 90’s is a prime example of good parentage, as his dad was a pretty successful roadie back in the day. My mate eventually crossed from MTB to road in the late 90s / early 2000s and has been Elite pretty much since then – I think it took him 2 seasons  to make it to the top level, and he’s been in or around top 10 in the national rankings since then. Another ex-MTBer mate (also Elite) rides for the same team and has got there through repeated application of hard work rather than arseing about like the rest of us. I just wish I’d seen the light a bit earlier, as its hard work playing catch up now – good genes or not.

  37. @Gianni

    @czmiel

    We are the ideal cyclists. We ride for the fun rather than the money.

    Let me put it that way: We (or at least most of us) are spending money to ride for the fun!

    True, but after the initial bike purchase it starts to get pretty cheap on the cost/fun ratio.

    er….n+1…helloooooo!

  38. Gianni, nice one! My thoughts in a nut shell on genes vs nurture are that hard work trumps what you are given except for the ones who are born with all the cards in the deck then they still have to do the hard work. If anything I am an example of the former, did not climb, sprint nor T.T. (could have just said rode like shit) until years of doing it full time made me look half way respectable!

    @Rob  – who is this? I am presuming our “badges” distinguish us apart?

  39. For the record: I have not commented on an article that starts with “Evelyn Stevens….” I have let it go.

  40. And as to choice of parents:

  41. @Gianni I don’t think anyone has ever better managed to sum up the entirety of my riding technique that you did with “scrub off less speed in the corners or use my awesome mass to distance people on descents”… Classic!

  42. The Pros

    70% genes

    30% hard work

    +30% EPO

    Us

    70% hard work

    30% genes

    -30% BEER

  43. @mxlmax

    Last one – Paris-Roubaix Challenge 2012 (video)

    then there’s this

  44. @Gianni

    @Oli

    @wiscot Cipollini wore all white, even in the rain!

    Cipo gets a pass, on everything. He is Cipo.

    He was. He’s not Cipo any longer. Now he’s a parody of Cipo. Sadly.

  45. Although, thinking about it, perhaps he was always a parody of himself.

  46. @Monty Exactly. Therefore, Cipo is still Cipo. And I can sleep peacefully. Now stop all that talk.

  47. Nature vs Nurture is an interesting question when analyzing cycling performance. One would look at Taylor Phinney and one is apt to quickly conclude the scales are dramatically tilted towards Mother Nature.

    From personal experience, for the first few years of my road racing career I was a mid packer in the European amateur peloton. But a much more serious approach of 6-7 rides a week, a healthier diet, and copious amounts of time at the V and Dime translated into greatly improved results over many years. That being said, the price for being a successful racing amateur Velominatus can come at costs to family, work, safety and health, along with many other known and unknown opportunity costs. For me Nurture (Rule V) overpowers Nature at amateur levels but at the Pro levels (which for me right now are irrelevant) Nature is also hugely important (and at times Dr. Ferrari’s potions) 

  48. Great article, love the sentiment. Making the most of yourself is at times the hardest thing to remember as your buddies grimp the climbs away from you, part of me dies inside every time I see the soft pedal allowing me to rejoin. And yet I have come so far since beginning the journey. This, and the personal improvement, is what this site has directed the focus towards now.

    Genetics can be fickle, gifted with a genetically slow resting HR on the one hand, and athsma on the other. The Guns write cheques that the vascular system can’t cash, even if the pump can handle it, the pipes aren’t big enough.

    But that doesn’t stop us trying, faster, further, more vert. The dawn, the dusk, the sun, the rain, the wind, the still, the country, the city, the climbs, the downs, the sweat, the grit. Today, we ride..

  49. Just noticed Phinney’s sunnies, what kind of pattern is that, just dots of color?

  50. @DerHoggz pretty sure they’re dots/splashes of the colours that make up the WC bands & I’d dare say that the photo is from a TT at the time when he was the U23 champ. From memory Faboo had a pair in the same pattern that he’d wear during normal road stages when he couldn’t wear his bands.

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