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When Are You Racing The Tour de France?
Do you ride with Lance Armstrong? Why aren’t you on the Discovery Team? When are you going to win a race? Have you ever stared down the barrel of these questions by your friends or co-workers, not really knowing if you should answer seriously or sarcastically? Since I began bike commuting to my school this year I’ve found myself in this situation more than ever...

- By Zachary Johnson -
My past experiences were with an ex-girlfriend who would snidely ask why I train so much but never win races. This query could be easily deflected with a roll of the eyes and the start of another cycling related fight…needless to say we didn’t last too long. Winning a race is so ridiculously hard yet the lay-person sees it as a realistic occurrence, frustrating.

So, when am I racing the Tour de France? Once I shake the sarcastic reply out of my head I always attempt to find some common ground with American sports. One co-worker is an avid golfer, I answered his Tour de France question with one of my own,

“Ed” I said, “ you’re a good golfer, why aren’t you playing in the US Open?” I then went on to explain that as a Category 4 racer I’m like a 10 handicap golfer. Someone who plays well but who’s rarely going to see the leader’s board.

Jorge, one of my students, was looking through a cycling magazine I had brought into school, he flipped through to the photos and asked, “are you in this one Mr. Johnson?”. I laughed and told him about the time I had a letter printed, but realizing that he was serious I described it in terms of baseball.

“Jorge, you played Little-League baseball growing up, so why aren’t you playing for the Red Sox now?”

“But it’s just riding a bike” he replied. And really, what can you say to that?

Jorge didn’t stop there though, unbeknownst to him, his assault on my sport of choice was just beginning.

“Mr. Johnson, can you beat Mr. Brown in a race? He’s really fast.”

My heart dropped and my gloom at the hopelessness of the situation rose as he asked me this question. You see Mr. Brown commutes one mile a day to work on his four year old, rusted, Trek mountain bike. He rides in his teaching clothes, with a too large helmet, and usually with a cup of coffee in his hands, and here I was being compared to him! How was this possible? Can’t Jorge see that I am a serious athlete?

The ex-girlfriend, Ed, Jorge, and all the others out there who assume they could do what we do, maybe it’s not their fault. Cycling is something that we do as children so maybe it’s to be expected that cycling as a sport is equated with ease and simplicity. My long-winded cycling explanations are falling on deaf ears no matter what I say, so maybe I just won’t bother anymore.

These thoughts echoed through my head on my ride home that day, but the further I rode the more my opinion began to change. Maybe it’s best that those around us don’t realize what we do and why we do it. Maybe our suffering is sweeter knowing that only a select few truly understand. This new found wisdom made me smile and put a bit extra into my sprint as I took yet another town line from Petaccahi and McEwen.

When am I going to ride the Tour de France? Heck, I ride it everyday.


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