What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ-Report: Ride For The Roses

Lance Armstrong and his cycling buddies used to race in the Texas countryside for a dozen roses in the early 90s. When the winner gave the roses to his girlfriend, few of the riders could have foreseen events from 1996 to the present. This past weekend was the annual running of the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s Ride For The Roses, to raise money for cancer research. Here’s the PEZ-eye view…

After an indoor Expo fair Friday and Saturday, a run Saturday morning, and a cancer film preview Saturday evening, 6,000 of Lance’s friends and supporters joined him on the ride this past Sunday, raising over $4.2 million to help cancer patients and their families. The roses now go to cancer survivors at the end of the ride.

Lance is passionate about supporting cancer patients. At Saturday evening’s film preview in Austin, he talked about the irony of fame allowing him to do good things like this, but also getting in the way: “This is a big stage, whereas seven years ago I couldn’t have created a big stage like this. Quite frankly, the Tour, and the training, and the travel take a lot of time. If I was just one person here in Austin, I could devote even more time to it.” When he finally stops racing, his legacy may just grow even larger.

Gregg Germer considers his next wheel purchase…

The Homeboy In Austin
I spent Saturday with Gregg Germer of Houston, a PEZ’s own “Homeboy in Belgium”, which starts up again in April as Gregg tries to break into the European pro ranks. Gregg mingled with friends and checked out the Bontrager wheels exhibit. We went to dinner at a Sixth Street restaurant where his mother watched him compete in a Ride for Roses night criterium a few years back. He showed me where he crashed but remounted his bike during one of the races. Gregg noted big stars who attended earlier Roses events, such as Eddy Merckx around 1997 or 98, when Barton Springs and the hill country were included. In a Forrest Gump-like maneuver, Gregg found himself at one Roses event standing between Lance and Miguel Indurain, not realizing that crews were filming the two big stars – sure enough, there were the three of them on the news later!

Not Your Average Sunday Ride
The criterium is no longer held, and the Ride no longer takes in the Texas Hill Country to the west of Austin. Instead it flows out to the flat and rolling terrain northeast of Austin, passing through the small town of Elgin. I did the 70-mile ride last year through a wonderful display of March wildflowers. This year’s October date interfered less with Lance’s tour preparations. A long Indian summer (in Texas that means high 80s temperatures) was rudely interrupted on ride day, when a cold front brought temperatures in the 50s, a 15 mph wind, and gusts up to 30 mph. The start turned into a display of both stylish and improvised cold weather cycling gear.

Chris Brewer is Lance’s webmaster, and a big supporter as well.

I opted for the back of the open flatbed media truck, which followed Lance and his friends on their 40-mile fun and publicity ride. This was no pansy co-out. The media truck was a bit like a peloton, with jostling among colleagues for position and much crouching and maneuvering for aerodynamic efficiency. I joked that we should be the ones with the helmets, as the ride became like a tennis match on the small back roads, with us looking ahead for oncoming oak limbs, then behind for photo ops. Finally we stopped at the cancer survivors rest stop in Elgin, where Lance did a whirlwind meet-and-greet, eating cookies, signing books, posing with groups, chatting with survivors and volunteers, then getting back on his bike.

After interviewing Tyler and snapping a few photos, I walked back towards the media truck. I looked down to see a bicycle wheel at my feet. I stepped back and awkwardly moved the same way the bike went, then stepped further back to see Lance balancing on his bike as he moved away from the gazebo full of fans. I said, “Sorry!” He said, “That’s okay!” and rode off down the road with comrades in pursuit. There I was, the human musette, almost knocking over the Man on his big day. Lance seems pretty good at balancing racing and cancer patient support, also. Something tells me it will take a lot more than a dorky journalist to knock Lance off his route, whether it be a sixth Tour win or the coming decades of work against cancer. Vive la Lance – et Vive Les Amis de Lance! – all 6,000 of them!

Jim Hoyt, owner of the Richardson Bike Mart near Dallas (pictured above), has known Lance since he was 7 years old: “When he was first doing criteriums, my wife Rhonda would say, “Go Lance”, and he would go and lap the field for her.” Jim attended the Tour the last five years: “This year I got there for the Pyrenees, and the next morning he won (at Luz Ardiden). I lost a $1,000 bet on the (Pornic) time trial, though. It went to a charity in Wisconsin. We had been in a winery that afternoon. A little bit of liquid courage got mixed in with my emotion.” Jim also attended the Hamilton World Championships to see another local protйgй, Patrick McCarty, whom he’s known since he was 12.

Tour Of Hopewww.laf.org.

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