We're sitting at the Poolesville Athletic Club and Cafe drinking coffee, 37 miles away from home. I'm talking with The Argentine, who's recounting his last race, in 2011. It was Greenbelt, and his wife was 8 months pregnant.
When his daughter was born, he couldn't carry her because the bone in his arm was still in several pieces, and his ribs were not yet fused together. His rehab lasted many months, and his poor wife cared for her newborn and her husband. What followed was a promise: to never race again.
What is that like, I wonder? To ride without racing?
His days are full of training rides, what he calls "hotlops" at Hains several times a week. He runs sometimes. He is not bound by the cycle of race fitness.
He takes pictures of bikes, Campy components, chorizo, drink, animals, flying machines of all kinds, and, yes, people you'd want to surround yourself with if you were not so busy racing:
If he were a Grand Tour rider, he'd have a different bike for the Alps and for the Pyrenees. A room in his apartment is full of bikes--at least two Ridley, BMC, Cannondale with Powercranks, a DeSalvo track bike. Each bike has its character. This one good for the hotlaps, this for the rough pavement, that for the courage of the heart.
His is the grandest tour, though, the one that doesn't stop or start with arbitrary lines, except at the butcher shop or the drafting table.
It's not my grand tour, the Argentine's route of beauty, class and quality. My own petty tours run through economy class, junkyards, and Wal-Marts. I have a janky ass race bike with the cheapest components available. And most of the time, when I ride, it's with the purpose of getting fast for a race.
Mine is the American way, after all. Shit beer and pragmatism.
Said D.H. Lawrence of that quintessential American, Ben Franklin, "he was everything but a poet."
There is little poetry in American life today. I'm not just talking rhyming couplets. I'm talking about The Argentine, here. A thing being something more than the economics of a thing.
A machine being something more than a checklist of components.
A whisky being more than a buzz.
A bike ride being more than a box on a training calendar.
A life being more than the sum of these.