Yeah, yeah, I know. Breaking a four-month blog fast for this? But I think it’s worth it.
As one or possibly both of my readers know, I rode my sixth Pan-Mass Challenge this weekend. Being a high-profile event for a major regional charity, it tends to bring out the politicians and celebrities, at least those who are willing to pedal a bike. This year, Lance Armstrong decided to pay us a visit. Upon hearing the news a few days prior to the event, one of my friends remarked “how are they going to fit him and [PMC founder] Billy Starr in the same room?” Neither one is known for his humble demeanor, and LIVESTRONG could rightly be called a rival to the Jimmy Fund juggernaut.
Apparently somebody found an ego shoehorn, because LA found his way to Friday night’s opening ceremony in Sturbridge, shared a stage with Billy, and rode with us on Saturday morning. I had a small group of friends to ride with, and our sole goal was to avoid the freak show within the freak show. PMC inspires people to get on bikes, which I wholeheartedly endorse. Just don’t put me behind or beside them while they’re still working out how to grab a bottle and ride a straight line at the same time. I figured that our man would have a permanent cloud of admirers trying to work out how to ride a straight line and OMG TAKE MY PICTURE WITH LANCE at the same time, and I did not want any part of that.
Despite my best efforts, the rolling admiration society found me. A little more than 20 miles into the ride, my little paceline passed a group of 20 riders or so. My buddy JP noticed Lance in there, and we just kept riding. But then gruppo LA caught up. This happened two or three times. I noticed John Kerry in there, too. He’s riding a yellow Cervelo these days. I think his head tube is 1cm tall for every year he’s been in the Senate.
A few minutes later we started climbing a moderate hill. Lance was maybe third wheel in the group, I was a few bikes behind him. About halfway up, another guy passed me, rode up beside Lance and made the universal “slow down” gesture. Lance immediately backed off. I didn’t get it at first, but as I passed him, the pieces fell into place and I looked over at him. “So was that the ‘slow down, you’re blowing up Senator Kerry signal?'” I asked. “Yeah, but it’s not me!” he said, tossing his head mock-defensively at the riders up the road. I chuckled as I rode on.
Though I’m using Kerry to tell a joke here, seriously, the guy is pushing 70, he’s a U.S. Senator, and he’s out with us for a casual 110-mile ride with us. I admire that, even if he did wobble around somewhat. In the interest of equal time, I’ll note that Scott Brown came with us, too. He can ride a straight line, but (as he did last year) he brought his full tri-geek setup: TREK TT bike, TT helmet, disc wheel. I’m sure there’s some kind of political allegory in that, but I can’t quite work it out. I also bet he had a ton of fun with the crosswinds on the outer Cape yesterday.
So yes, another PMC in the books for me. Though my stories tend to focus on bike riding, I try to remember that everybody on that ride has a cancer story. That’s why we’re there. I’m truly impressed by the number of people who find the strength to drag themselves off their couches and do this ride. And I’ll probably go back for more next year.