Rediscovering a Lost Love
-by Amy Bush
I love cycling, I really do, but somewhere along the way I forgot that. I'm not sure when it started, but I think it was sometime around the 2010 Amgen Tour of California.
I was sick before I even left for the airport, a stomach virus I assumed because the nausea was unbearable and I'd barely eaten in three days. Then, the seemingly simple matter of picking up my rental car turned into a huge headache as my bank had put a hold on the nearly $400.00 out-of-state charge so it took multiple phone calls and 2+ hours before I was able to drive away. The next few days visiting with my cousin and his wife in San Leandro were nice, but upon my departure for Sacramento and the start of the ToC, I discovered a huge crack in the windshield of the rental car which had been parked in the open with no tree limbs in sight since my arrival.
Anyway, I know none of this has anything to do with cycling but, when the stomach virus disappeared and turned into an upper respiratory illness, I was done. It all just made me so sensitive to everything going on around me including being told (and I don't remember the exact words) that I was nothing more than a wanna-be journalist and photographer. We all have to start somewhere, don't we? But this personal affront was witnessed by a majority of the photographers at the race, most of whom ARE professionals, and it made me feel unwanted and unwelcome.
THEN, and this is where we get into perhaps the true source of my discontent with the sport, Floyd Landis comes out and confesses; and instead of simply taking responsibility for his own actions, he had to try to bring a large number of other riders down with him -- including my forever favorite rider, Chechu Rubiera. I was already feeling about as low as I could get being physically ill and emotional beaten, but this was one of those "what else could go wrong" moments. I had vehemently defended Floyd for years to everyone and anyone who would listen and even to some who didn't.
I bought into his "I am innocent" hype and did the research on those theory websites, studying the lab reports and reading interviews and articles. I truly believed he was telling the truth. I even donated to the Floyd Fairness Fund...what a joke that was. It should have been called the Floyd Fraud Fund because that's ultimately what it was. He received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations under false pretense...that's fraud.
I found myself slowly pulling away from the sport. I stopped checking the cycling websites. I stopped watching the races. Not even my favorite, Paris-Roubaix, interested me in any way except to maybe see who won. I just became so disillusioned with all the negative aspects of the sport, doping in particular, that I couldn't see past them. Then, a few months ago I met someone at work who I found out to be a cyclist and cycling fan. We got to talking and he told me he'd been to many races over the years including every Tour de Georgia and the Tour DuPont. Without knowing it at the time, he helped me to start rediscovering my love for the sport of cycling.
There are SO many wonderful memories I could share with you of places I've been and people I've met over the years as a result of being asked by Cathy Mehl to blog about following the 2008 Tour de Georgia. I truly never imagined it would lead to some of the greatest joys of my life.
There have been friends made along the way... Cam, Jo, Deb and Vikki...Bev, Chris, Rod and Debbie. Too many friends to name, friends I first "met" in chat rooms and friends that shared my obsession with the sport. It was an obsession that lead to an addiction to eBay and maxed out credit cards as I built up my collection of old cycling videos and DVDs and cycling memorabilia.
There were the fans that lined the roads and cheered the riders on....entire families spending a day together. I loved to just sit and talk to them. They're what keeps the sport alive. Fans like Alice and Eric whom I met while waiting at a crosswalk after Stage 1 of the 2008 Tour de Georgia. Alice made some comment about it being too far to their car and I had to laugh because I was thinking the exact same thing.
I was given the opportunity of a lifetime for any cycling fan to be invited to write for US Cycling Report and was able to help behind the scenes in many other ways. I've been given photography tips from a couple of Graham Watson's photographers and interviewed a handful of riders and the sweetest podium girls you could ever meet. I never dreamed I'd have the honor to do this.
In the Media Room, I met Susan and Priscilla, who have always believed in me and encouraged me and Bonyetta, who offered me a bed to sleep in when I was sick and just needed to lie down for awhile. Rebecca and Dan were wonderful companions out on the course and kept me sane at times. And I can't forget the troublesome trio of the 2010 AToC...Ben, Luke and Kyle.
Stage 6 of the 2008 Tour de Georgia, the climb to Brasstown Bald, was a thrill from start to finish. Sierra Road at the AToC can alway be guarenteed to be memorable whether it be the the bitter wind and cold in the middle of May, Scott Nydum's parents and fiance hitching a ride with me to the top of the climb, or meeting the mascot for the San Jose Sharks.
I had the pleasure of catching the bouquet of flowers thrown by Andrei Greipel after finishing 2nd on Stage 3 of the 2008 Tour de Georgia. It was a lucky one-handed catch and I immediately had an allergic reaction. My left eye was literally flowing like a faucet and my throat was scratchy and tight. Some guy suggested getting rid of the flowers and I looked at him like he was crazy. When was I ever going to be lucky enough to catch a bouquet again? I mean really...
But my greatest memory, the one that always ensures a huge smile on my face and a flutter of my heart, it meeting Chechu. I can't even begin to explain the utter elation I felt when I saw him step off the team bus at Tybee Island at the 2008 Tour de Georgia. There I was decked out in my Chechu t-shirt and carrying the Asturian flag when Tony Colom saw me and got Chechu's attention who then immediately started walking my way. I was shaking like a leaf but I managed to extend my hand to shake in greeting when I suddenly found myself pulled into the standard European greeting of a gentle peck on each cheek. Can you imagine? I nearly keeled over. He proved himself to be a kind and generous man and greeted me EVERY DAY asking me "How are you?" and I'd reply "Good...how are the legs?" and he'd say "I don't know, let me see" and he'd look down at them. He even approached me before the start of the 3rd stage and talked to me for 20 minutes like we were old friends. And he remembered me when he saw me at later races, the last being the 2010 Tour of California. I miss him in the peloton.
So, only good memories from now on. The dopers will never go away and I have to accept that, but I will continue to hope for and support a clean sport. I don't understand the doping, never will and, quite frankly, I haven't really seen any indication that the performance enhancing drugs have enhanced anybody's performance. The sport is NOT doping, though some journalist like to focus on that. The sport is about strength and competition ,and endurance and teamwork, and joy and fun. No more Negative Nelly from me. I will cherish all my good memories and friends and hope to make more in my journey of rediscovering a lost love.