The Cycling Clydesdale
Yeah. I know. Funny name for a blog and I agree. Truth is, The Fat Cyclist would fit me better, but that name is already taken (www.fatcyclist.com). No argument here. He started his blog first and so to the fat guy go the spoils….or something like that, although a Clydesdale is used as the basis for his website and clothing design. I guess I could title this blog “When Pigs Fly,” but I’m a bike rider, not a pig in space and so The Cycling Clydesdale sticks…like mud on a pig.
I came to the name of this blog rather innocently. I was breathing heavily up a 2% grade next to my house the other day and my mind started to wander. Actually, it really didn’t wander, but rather, it went straight to my lounge chair, where I pictured myself seated with a slice of pepperoni pizza in one hand and a cold Bud in the other. And because this is how my mind works, I immediately thought of myself pulling the Budweiser Beer Wagon into the Budweiser garage, where I was rewarded by being allowed to shower under buckets and buckets of wonderfully cold beer.
Reality jolted me out of my daydreams when the grade jumped to 3% and the sound of my panting woke a slumbering infant in a stroller whose mother had just passed me as she was walking up the hill. No longer able to take pleasure in my daydreams, my mind harkened back to a time when I first heard the word Clydesdale associated with cycling.
I was out for a ride one Saturday afternoon and came upon a series of crit races that were being held in my city. Of course, not knowing they were crit races caused me to ask to no one in particular “Wow…what’s going on here?” A middle-aged couple was straddling their bikes a few feet from me and looking at the expanse of titanium under both of their crotches, I realized that they might have just a few more dollars than me. Actually, a lot more dollars than me. The alpha male, while continuing to gaze at the riders at the distance, stated, “It’s a criterium. You know what that is, don’t you?” “Of course, I do” I thought, but before I could answer, his impeccably dressed cycling trophy cast her eyes at me, gave me the total up and down glare and stated in her best Thurston Howell III voice “ They have a Clydesdale division, in case you want to try it.” Now of course, I was elated because here was someone I didn’t even know who just by looking at me thought I could race, but time didn’t allow it as I needed to get home to watch the current rerun of Family Guy. I thanked them both for not only their information, but also their insight (me, a racer!) and slowly trudged home.
When I arrived home, my excitement got the best of me, so I decided to spend some time on the internet instead of the TV. Googling Clydesdale and cycling, it took me a while until I found what was I looking for: an upcoming race with a Clydesdale division. My joy was short lived when I discovered that Mrs. Howell mistook me for Peter, the loveable husband on Family Guy. I mean, no one would ever mistake me for Twiggy, but a Clydesdale? I immediately put down my post ride jelly donut and swore that I would lose enough weight to place me in a division under Clydesdale…maybe not Stallion, but certainly not Clydesdale.
And so for the next few weeks I did everything I could to lose weight. I dieted; I drank enough water to drain a small reservoir; I peed enough to fill a small reservoir; I rode longer and sometimes harder, but mostly longer. After all of that…nothing. You would think that just all of that walking to the bathroom would result in some weight lose, but nope. I replaced the battery in the bathroom scale…twice. The same number still stared at me every morning when I gingerly stepped on it. Reality finally sank in. I knew that no matter what I wanted to do, I couldn’t alter fate. A Clydesdale born is a Clydesdale through life. Sure, I have pictures of Lance and Eddy in my workshop, just as I’m sure the Budweiser Clydesdales have pictures of Secretariat and Seabiscuit plastered all over their rec room in the Budweiser barn. But those pictures of Lance and Eddy aren’t going to make me a racehorse anymore than the pictures of Secretariat and Seabiscuit will change the Clydesdales. We are what we are. But…here is the key difference: in the world of horses, those Clydesdales are beloved. What man in America doesn’t see one and immediately think of Budweiser beer? Next to the Chihuahua and Taco Bell, no other animal identifies better with its sponsor. Heck, those Clydesdales even play football. But in cycling? Hah…you might as well be a one legged, three foot troll riding a tricycle.
The good news is that I’ve been told that I’m a great guy to draft behind, because just like a fullback blasting a hole in the defensive line for his halfback, I create lots of free air space. Lots. I mean lots. You could probably put the entire Tour de France peloton behind me and they would be shielded from the wind. And not to brag, but today my ego received a tremendous boost: I actually passed someone going up a hill. Ok…sure…he was walking and he almost took me down with a wild swipe of his white cane, but still, it was my own personal victory. Baby steps…baby steps.