I saw my first "mountain bike" in 1982. In Aspen Co., where several adventerous cyclists had just ridden over from Crested Butte. Two years later, in Durango CO., mountain bikes were becoming the rage - within my circle of friends. No flash, no glory, no shaved legs, just the fire roads, goat trails, shrieking brakes, and p***ed of hikers and horsemen. Durango. In the mid 80's.
After Aspen I moved out to SoCal, sun, surf, babes, and tuition for a song, a dance, and a nice smile, at the local community college. MTV had just gone on air, and although I don't remember, seems ESPN was launched around that time as well. Missing Persons' sang that Nobody walks in LA, but it seemed to me that nobody rode nor skied in LA either. I was also getting real tired of the weatherman warning of "bone chilling" overnight temperatures of 54F.
Off to SW Colorado to continue my higher education. Funny though, that all those mountains make over-the-air broadcasts... sleeping aids at best. And I wanted my MTV! Sneaking into the cable TV package was this ESPN station. And on it they broadcast all sorts of esoteric sports. Australian rules football; Bellyflop and Eagle Look-a-Like Championships; cricket; Road Cycling.
Suffice it to say that our pick-up football games morphed into something decidedly non-American, more important, or more lasting impact, there was also this Perry Rubay race. It was always tape delayed - coming to us after the ski-lifts had closed and before the rivers started rising - Colorado mud season. But these dudes were all covered with crap, riding across roads in wind, rain and snow, that looked not unlike our local April "mountain bike" trails circa 1985.
Perry Rubay? Seems like those shaved legged nuts actually had a race that us Chuck Taylor wearing mountain "punk gods" could appreciate. And you couldn't even tell that they were wearing those goofy tights and jerseys.
Even though I had had my own ten-speed since age 16, it took several years before I realized that the race was actually Paris-Roubaix (yeah I took french in H.S. - I only fooled my parents). I also realized that not only was road cycling kinda cool (not the clothes, not yet), but that it actually augmented my need to punish myself in the shoulder seasons. And that there were other races similar to Paris-Roubaix.
Ten years later, a prisoner to a cubicle in Denver, I found that I had a great morning hill climb just outside my door - Lookout Mountain - that I could ride before work. And it had a screaming downhill! Of course, others were riding it as well, and the really good guys and gals - the ones who would mercilessly drop me - all had similar tights and jerseys.
So I bought my tights and jerseys, and new bikes, and slick sunglasses. I traveled to Europe and rode the classic Alp and Dolomite climbs. I read many of the road cycling publications, and follow many of the controversies.
Through it all though, I realize all that is good in and of cycling is embodied not in the riders or teams we love, nor in the events we cherish, but in the passion that events evoke. Out-sprinting the worlds best at Tirreno-Adriatico; A cloud break atop a mountain pass. An epic climb onto Ventoux; a smoking single track in the middle of the city; the list of serendipitous moments, vicarious or personal, is blessedly long.
I can't say if I had Paris-Roubaix in mind when I coasted, pushed or carried my Mt bike in the seventh lap to a 1986 podium finish after shattering my bottom bracket. But when I think of that race, and many other similar times, I revel in my personal Perry Rubay glory.
[SIZE="1"]Where ever you find yourself, there you are[/SIZE]