It’s almost too much to ask. At 42 years old, you are twice the age of some of your opponents in one of the most grueling of sports – professional cycling. Yet, each year you astonish us. In 2013, it was your surprise Stage 5 Amgen victory against some of the greatest sprinters in the world. Before that it was your stage wins in the Tour de France. Too frequently, it is your almost inhuman ability to recover from crashes.
You’re living proof of what Mark Twain said: “Age is a matter of mind. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
You never seem to mind.
But, as with many of your other fans, I find myself wondering if you can do it again this year. After riding up Mt. Hamilton over this last weekend, I’ve decided that tomorrow’s Amgen Stage 3 is your best chance. Leaving San Jose, the route winds over Mt. “Ham” and ends atop Mt. Diablo, 108 miles later.
You are renowned for being one of the more loquacious riders in professional cycling. It’s not just that you’re talkative, but it’s also your German accent and, above all, your infectious energy that fans and fellow riders find so entertaining. Use this to your advantage! Mt. Ham is putting on its springtime spectacle. Wildflowers are exploding across the hills. Take some time this evening to learn about a few of them. Then, as the peleton is making the climb tomorrow morning, begin giving everyone a lesson about the flora of Santa Clara County.
“Wiggo, that purple flower is a penstemon. Did you know that Native Americans used it for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases? Ja, it’s true. Maybe you want to stop to pick some?”
“Phinney, that plant with the red flowers is called ‘Castilleja’, but many refer to it by its common name – ‘Wooly Indian Paintbrush’. Those flowers are edible. Some people dry them and use them as a condiment. You should stop and try some! You can catch up with me later.”
“Carter, those are Golden Poppies, they match your Optum team colors very nicely, don’t you think? You should pick a few for your team masseuse – she will love them.” (Don’t tell Carter that this is the California state flower and picking them is illegal – with luck he will be arrested before the climb up Mt. Diablo.)
Can you imagine how the younger riders will respond when you begin providing this tutorial as you climb toward the summit?! They will think not only does the old guy have the lungs and energy to keep up with them, but he proves to be an expert in native wildflowers as well!
If by any chance the other riders aren’t sufficiently distracted and are still with you, take their line and force them to brush against the leaves of this plant. It won’t have any immediate effect, but by Stage 6 the itching should make for a long and challenging day in the saddle.
When you see this sign – make your move! Five quick miles and then a smooth descent toward Mt. Diablo. All you need to do is channel your mantra of “Schließen Sie Beine.”
Lastly, if you feel your energy flagging before the summit, I left a small bottle of Berentzen for you at the observatory.