Friday, December 9, 2011

Questions for the Pros

Friends: There are more bike blogs out there than you would want to know, hundreds and hundreds. "Outside" magazine recently published a list of what it considered the top ten. Among them was

Fatty, as he is known despite not being fat, achieved fame back in December of 2009 when he sent a mock letter of application to Johan Bruyneel to ride for the RadioShack team in the second year of Lance's comeback. Johan played along with the gambit. He said if he could raise $10,000 for World Bicycle Relief and $10,000 for LiveStrong within a week, he'd be welcome to try out for the team at its training camp in Tucson later that month. Fatty offered up a couple of bikes to his readers to raise the money and pulled in a staggering $135,000. He had a fine time at the camp, though he didn't ride well enough to earn a contract.

This past week Fatty announced that he would be conducting periodic interviews with pro cyclists and solicited questions from his readers. At last count more than 140 of his readers had responded with a wide range of quite good questions. Fatty was so impressed he said, "You guys are knocking it out of the ball park." Scanning the identities of those submitting questions, more than 25 of them had blogs of their own.

More people wanted to know how the riders deal with pain and suffering than anything else. They were well informed on how demanding the sport is with a few asking if they'd want their children to pursue the sport. One asked, "Do your parents think you're crazy too?" Another series of popular questions had to do with what the racers thought of the various bikes they've been obligated to ride due to the team's sponsors and also the uniforms they've had to wear.

There were the usual questions about shaving and eating and maintaining their weight and taking a leak in the middle of a race and sex and what they'd be if they weren't a cyclist. A couple of readers who race wondered if they too had to take a pee every couple minutes just before the start of a race.

There were quite a few questions relating to the human side of the riders--if they had ever been to summer camp, their favorite pie, who was their best friend as a kid, memories of their first bike, their hobbies, if they were ever picked on for being a skinny little kid. Others wanted to know if they ever ride just for personal enjoyment and if they have a favorite ride. At least five readers wondered about their mechanical aptitude, if they could fix a flat tire, and if they'd stop and help a cyclist in distress when out on a training ride.

There were quite a few trying to understand what its like to be in the peloton--their reaction to the closeness of the fans, if it smells in the peloton, the cost of their socks, if tubulars are really that much better than clinchers. Several asked how easy it was for them to fly with their bikes. At least four questions related to podium girls, including "Do you exchange pleasantries with podium girls, or do they all just ask if you can give them Mario Cipollini's phone number?" One of my questions was if they randomly tossed their water bottle when it is empty or if they are selective to whom they throw it. Someone else asked if they aimed corks on champagne bottles when they were on the podium at specific individuals in the crowd.

Readers wanted to know if David Ziebriskie is really that weird, if they are afraid of Jens Voigt, if they'd want to go riding with Bob Roll, if Levi Leipheimer had ever put them in a head lock, Frank or Andy, if Thomas Voeckler is as disliked as has been reported.

There were those interested in their mindset of living in Europe--if they give their shoe size in European or American measurements, how many languages they speak or what key phrases they knew from other languages.

There were a handful of goofball questions asking if they'd consider riding The Tour on a fixie unicycle, if they ever sing in the peloton, what is their favorite flavor of road grit, why don't pro bikes have bells, how many bugs they swallow in a year, if they ever feel the need to take pictures of their bike when out riding, chunky or creamy.

All in all the readers were quite knowledgeable. Of the fifteen readers who included the word "peloton" in their questions only three (20%) misspelled it as "peleton," an all too common mistake among American neophyte fans of the sport. Another of my questions was to ask the racers to spell "peloton." It is so little used in our lexicon that it has yet to qualify for spellcheck.

Since the vast majority of those offering up questions had more than a few, Fatty has well over 500 questions to choose from. It will be a challenge not only for him to narrow them down but for the racers to provide answers as interesting as the questions. Let the interviews begin.

Later, George

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