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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Back of the Pack

Start of the last stage of the 2008 Vuelta Ciclista Comunidad Valenciana

Back of the Pack

I rode my bike over to the beginning of the fifth and final stage of the Vuelta Ciclista Comunidad Valenciana. I got a chance to check out all of the cool bikes at very close range while the riders were waiting for the start. Just before the gun I moved down the street so that I could watch the peleton cruise past. Ever since I saw my first stage of the Tour de France when I was 19 or so I have wondered how long I could ride with the peleton before I had major system failures and would be forced to seek emergency aid. I still wonder how long I could hang on at the back of the pack. 5 kilometers? 10 kilometers? Are you saying that I could suck wheel at the back of the peleton for more than 10 kilometers? I’m sure that I could have lasted longer when I was 20 than today.

Hanging out somewhere at the back trying not to be noticed: I seem to have adapted my strategy for how I would ride in the Tour de France for a lot of things in my life. I have taken up quite a few things through the years with only the expectation of faking my way through it just to see how it felt. I had no intention of even finishing the race, let alone making a dash for the winner’s circle. Some people might see this attitude as defeatist or even cowardly. I don’t know how vehemently I would disagree with those people. Perhaps you think that I am just taking a sour grapes attitude because I was never really blessed with a talent, or at least not any talent that is easily recognizable? Perhaps you think that my complete lack of competitive expectations has been a defense mechanism to protect me from potential failure? You probably would be thinking that if you are doing one of the following activities: swilling Red Bull; attending a Tony Robbins seminar; putting a “He Who Dies With The Most Toys Wins” bumper sticker on your Porsche Boxter; saying shit like, “Failure is not an option;” or giving someone the finger in traffic. To those I ask, “How long do you think you could hang with the peleton.”

At least I’m not harming other people in my attention-deficit-disorder approach to pastimes, not most of the time anyway. There were those three deaths I indirectly caused in my short-lived career as a NASCAR driver, and that botched open-heart surgery I performed (it’s harder than they make it look on TV), and the airline I crashed (I guess that I should have brought parachutes for everyone). For the most part I have been the only one to pay for my mistakes. Oh, and there was Chernobyl…oops! My bad, I’ll be man enough to admit that I wasn’t a very good nuclear engineer. Evidently you need to take a few classes to do that job. I was able to fake my way through it for almost two hours before the disaster. It’s good that we can all look back on those youthful indiscretions and laugh about them now.

A jack of all trades and a master at none, as they say. I think that expression needs to have something in it about being criminally negligent. Just like few people are going to mistake me for a rider in the Tour de France, even fewer people will mistake me for a Spaniard, but I still try to blend into the back of the pack. I don’t think that I can do any harm in my quest to speak lousy Spanish—unless I finagle my way into a hostage negotiator job or work at a suicide hotline in Spain. Speaking Spanish will just be one more of those talents that I will probably develop to my own signature level of imperfection.

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