Here in America one of our biggest national holidays is Thanksgiving. Canada celebrates Thanksgiving, but in October, and I think it has something to do with moose. Or hockey. I'm really not sure.
Regardless, here in the States we traditionally sit down with family and friends to give thanks for what we have. I've been fortunate in many ways. One of those things I want to give thanks for this month was my one-year anniversary writing for RoadCycling.com. The RoadCycling.com site is continuing to evolve and you'll see more features as time goes by. It's a small operation but I'm proud to write for them. My editor Thomas A. Valentinsen has been a big supporter and has taught me several Danish words. Or it might be Dutch words. Still not sure. [Ed. note: Tusind tak for de søde ord Neil. Det er Danske ord - du har helt ret. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our readers for remaining loyal to Roadcycling.com, for checking out the many new features and tweaks on the new version of the site and for helping us spread the word about the site.]
Another thing I'm thankful for is the journalists who stepped up and took a stand. I'm talking about David Walsh and Paul Kimmage. Those two didn't take the easy way and wrote fluff pieces during Armstrong's era. They were shunned by their peers but they didn't allow that to stop them from writing what needed to be said. Mr. Walsh is presently writing a book about the now disgraced Lance Armstrong. Do yourself a favor; buy it as soon as it hits the shelves. Until then you can buy for your e-reader a series of his articles dating back to 1999 starting with Armstrong's first win.
I'm also giving thanks to anonymous bloggers and Twitter accounts like the UCI Overlord (and all his associates), Race Radio, and INRNG. While technically not journalists, they are still a source of cycling information – just anonymously. Journalists tend to shy away from these types of sources as they cannot be verified, which is the lifeblood of the craft. To be news it must be confirmed from a verified source. However, there are times when being anonymous allows that person to work in the shadows and not suffer the repercussions that might arise. As we have seen with the Armstrong scandal those who stuck their heads up got smacked.
To be clear, not all anonymous Twitter accounts are good. Some are just frustrated people lashing out behind a Twitter icon (otherwise known as “trolls”) because they know they're safe. Those you can ignore. But the ones I mentioned are worth following as they have shown time and time again to be correct or become a source like “Deep Throat.” I'm sure I'm missing a few anon Twitter accounts, but trust me, I know who you are...
I'm also thankful to streaming video feeds. In the States we have a limited amount of broadcasted cycling. RoadCycling.com has video highlights from most major races in our video section. To feed your insatiable need for racing, sites like Steephill.tv and Cyclingfans.com have links to all the races from road, to track, to now cyclocross. Sure it might be in Dutch or Flemish but I'm happy with what I'm seeing. Plus you can turn it into a drinking game. Every time an announcer cries out, “Ja, ja, ja” you drink. Play this game responsibly.
Stateside CyclingDirt.org has streamed video from cyclocross nationals and has done it on a shoestring budget. It isn't the Wide World of Sports, but if you can't be at 'cross nationals it keeps you in the loop. Hopefully they'll receive additional funding to get a few more cameras out on the course.
Speaking of videos – I'm bowing my head and thanking Jeremy Powers for his Behind the Barriers series. It's a cool look at the behind the scenes stuff that goes on with the Rapha-Focus team once they are away from the course. Plus, in this season's first episode you can see me in the post-race scrum interviewing Powers after his victory at Cross Vegas. Check out what cap I'm wearing. I'm internet famous!
Other teams in the past have produced behind the scenes video series, like Cervelo TestTeam and Garmin-Sharp. I hope to see more next year.
I can't deny it anymore; I'm getting older. As such the effects of riding a bike and strengthening my leg muscles versus sitting for most of the day and typing has played havoc on my body. I have lingering aches and pains. So I'm giving thanks to the “endurance bike” category. The endurance bike is a little more upright with the carbon frame tuned to dissipate the road's irregularities. I give thanks to the endurance bike as it has made my longer rides a little less painful.
While on the subject of endurance bikes I'm giving thanks to gran fondos. These are competitive, but not competitive events that have allowed me to line up with Tour de France champions and the elite of professional cycling. If one is coming to your area, sign up – you won't be disappointed.
There are a couple other things I'd like to give thanks for. Noise-canceling headsets for when I'm traveling. I know I can get an “amen” from ESPN's Bonnie Ford who was missing hers as she was traveling. But when I do have my headset on for my enjoyment I'm digging VeloBeats coming out of them and into my ear holes. If you need to get amped up for your training ride VeloBeats will get the job done. If not consult a doctor.
Since it's winter I'm thanking all the companies that make quality arm, leg, and knee warmers. Oh, let's remember to keep the head covered, so I want to thank the company that decided, “You know what? I bet if we took a cycling cap and took the bill off we could sell them.” Yep, big thanks to the skull cap.
Every year the Oxford American Dictionary names their “Word of the Year.” This year it was GIF. WTF! I'm giving thanks to Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle's book, “The Secret Race.”
They introduced us to a lexicon of new words and phrases. We got “glow-time” - the amount of time you had when you could still return a positive for a doping test. Or what about “not normal”? Armstrong used this phrase to describe riders who he thought were doping. My favorite is “paniagua” - translated means “bread and water” and means that a rider was riding clean.
Finally, I'm going to raise my glass this Thursday to Travis Tygart of USADA. He did the job that needed to be done – exposing an American hero for what he was – a cheat, liar and a petty thug. Tygart and his staff faced death threats as they chipped away at the evidence that proved Lance Armstrong had cheated his way to those victories. If you think the final chapter is written think again. More will be revealed.
There's a lot more I'm thankful for, like friends, family and those serving our country. I'll remember them this Thursday, but this post enabled me to give thanks to those in the cycling world. My final thanks is to the cycling industry. Yeah I'm at times tough on it, but I really do it out of love.