Monday, September 28, 2015

Sunday Morning Worlds: A View from Richmond 2015

"All the sexy people," opined Dave Towl, "are on Libby Hill today." There were a lot of people--I won't necessarily describe them as sexy--on Libby Hill and in Richmond on Sunday, so statistically there were probably a few sexy ones. I didn't notice, really. I was staring at a human Christmas tree on a rooftop attempting to rouse the crowd into chanting "You Ess AYYY!"

Then there were the Norwegians in red skinsuits with blue fanny packs, carefully unwrapping canned herring, the Columbians with a sign for Pantana y Alzate and one of them with two incredibly well-proportioned young women on his arms, the Dutch thirstily looking for beer at 8am, a subdued squad of triathletes from Liberty University wearing matching Liberty Flames Triathlon shirts, a guy named Igor who described himself as "Ukrainian and Jewish" who had driven down from Chicago and whose car broke down in West Virginia and who agreed that there is an inverse correlation in terms of number of teeth in a population's mouth and knowledge of auto mechanics, on aggregate--this meaning, they took care of his car quite well in West Virginia, and it didn't cost too much.

Igor and I smiled in the sunshine and observed a prone bro in a stars-n-stripes muscle shirt yakking in a upturned traffic cone. A buddy had his hand on his shoulder. The Liberty Flames Triathlon team averted their eyes.

So many questions arise when you have 20 minutes to kill between the peleton's visits. How many watts does it take to stay in a break of the kind that Ben King joined? How many Watts did my friend pull on his bakfeits (shown below giving a "pull" to Ben and company)?
The answer is, of course, all of them. All the watts.

How did this steep grassy, cobbled place called Libby Hill not get ruined? This is America, after all. There should have been TGI Fridays and Walmarts and a McMansion and a Mega-Hooters adult breast-shaped man barn and a place where you can liter the ground with empty rounds and gnawed ribs and the corpses of vegans. How could it possibly happen that, in America, we let this place go unmolested? How did we preserve this perfect shrine of bike racing, in the old haunt of the Confederacy?

Libby's, I recalled, is an old Chicago brined meat company, back when the cattle of the West were herded on rail cars and brought to the Windy City's huge stockyards, run through chutes, knifed and strung up by desperate Lithuanians, and whose (cows and sometimes Lithuanians) blood and offal was swept up with sawdust and either filled sausage casings or ran off into the river whereupon folks often drowned under its hard crust.

They also canned the pumpkins my Grandma used for making Thanksgiving pies.

That Libby bears no connection, as far as I can tell, to the namesake of Richmond's Libby Hill. Mr. Libby Hill also had a notorious Civil War prison bear his name. The park was designed as a "breathing place," a place to go and take the airs. The prison, apparently, was a place to go and suffer and die miserably of disease and starvation.

Prison and park--Libby Hill was probably a bit of both for those who loitered and those who rode it on Sunday.

I'm not sure why, but I half expected to find Richmond still a rubble from Grant's visit a century and a half ago. That fire destroyed over 54 blocks, including 900 homes and businesses.
Church Hill, Careytown, and Libby--all now have vibrant shops and parks and quaint streets, brick sidewalks beautiful but hard to push a stroller over. I even sat next to Ted King and Timmy Duggan in Careytown.

Around 11 I wandered over to Sub Rosa for a chocolate bomb and a coffee.
It's what you do when you have a kid and drinking beer is just too much effort. Up toward 29th I saw some of the Richmond still struggling to recover--from Grant, from segregation, from the Depression, the Great Recession, or maybe just a rough paint job.

Me with my chocolate bomb, wandering around and snapping pictures of poverty, in the middle of Worlds.

Then it was back to Libby and a few more ascents.
When Kwiatkowski came past, a pang of sorrow--no rider seemed as calm and relaxed, but you somehow knew his year was over. Something in the motion of this course, in the crowd's swell, said it would be a different kind of rider this year. 

The burden of world's greatest will not be his in 2016.

Sagan's triumph captured everyone--he won in a way we all dream of winning, and he won the race all our own races echo: our Tuesday night worlds.

And yet, and maybe this is the part of me that has read Charly Wegelius and Michael Barry, recognizes the tremendous suffering of the whole passing troupe, the question of whether the great loops of the galloping wheels do anything other than stir the sympathetic reflexes of a few old vicarians?

Is that the point of it--to live greatness through others?

By midnight, long after Sagan had tossed his glasses and helmet into the ecstatic throngs of middle aged men, there were only a few left, and they did seize a kind of greatness. Or at the least they bared their buttocks towards it.