Well, I figured since the team has now all but completely disintegrated and I’ve yet to be paid for the piece (ahem), I would take the oppritunity to have my master work finally see the light of day on this bicycle and bicycle culture related website alternatively called Awesome Hats That Become Magic.
Sit back, put your feet up, and I hope you enjoy my sojourn into the wacky and wild world of professional journalism;
Sometime during the twilight of our lord’s year of 2010, I was dispatched to Specialized Bicycle’s Morgan Hill, California headquarters where I was to bear witness to the unveiling of the 2011 HTC Highroad professional bicycle team.
I was puzzled by this due to the fact that I do not now, nor have I ever considered myself a journalist. I gave my editor as many outs as I possibly could, but apparently I was at the top of a very short list of folks who could have filled the role. With the week in question finally upon me, I loaded up a bag of clothes, notepads, a camera, my bike and an open mind as to what lay ahead of me as I became immersed in a world of big business and elite level cyclists.
What follows is a blow by blow of what transpires in the mind of someone whose love of riding a bike is only equaled by his apathy for spending a week talking about it.
8:15 am On the first day of the press camp we are set to start.
Nope… Not really. I’m still waiting in the reception area at 8:30 and I am absolutely furious. I am thinking about my impending morning constitution.
A seemingly nice woman named Jennifer is introducing herself to the other journalists as they arrive.
I would guess her house smells good.
8:50 am We are seated in a room full of chairs to sign a waver that says I won’t say anything about anything that transpires here this week until I am given the green light to do so. I decide to use a different color pen;
9:17 I retreat to my truck to change out of my pants into a pair of shorts because I am a slave to comfort.
9:47 I take a wiz.
10:00 We are lead into a fully stocked gym facility with a really nice mural of a sun setting over what I would guess to be a Tahitian beach;
Here we are learning about power and lactate testing, which among other things will assess how quickly a body can produce the stuff. One of the athletes is riding a stationary bike while wearing a plastic Hannibal Lecher looking mask that I naturally assume is pumping air straight from Jennifer’s house;
10:03 I learn that wattage output depends on the rider’s body weight. It then occurs to me that this must mean my own wattage output would be tremendous.
10:15 I’m told that the second member of the HTC Highroad team that we are to watch undergo the process was actually tested the day before. I am absolutely furious again.
These people can smell fear. The best offense is a good defense. Breaking eye contact shows weakness.
Koschyk Dietmar of the University of Hamburg teaches us the fine points of Cardio Echo testing. In the midst of looking at cardiograms and EKG scans, I get a text from Parkin regarding a request for tips on being a good journalist that says “look where the douchebags are and go somewhere else.”
10:56 I catch Mark Cavendish playing ping pong and choke back the urge to high five the hell out of him and then challenge him to a game.
11:00 Team P.T., Darcy Norman explains ‘core strength’, which much to my surprise is not an 80’s hardcore band from Boston.
He describes the method behind the FMS, or the ‘Functional Movement System’, which is a preliminary core strength test challenging neurological and physical abilities and connections, which was initially developed by two people named Greg Cook and Lee Burton.
I can’t shake the feeling that I would fail that test.
11:00 We (the other attending journalists, and seemingly everyone else on the Specialized Bicycle campus) attend the BG Fit seminar. Lots of people are getting fitted and lots of people are taking pictures of lots of people getting fitted;
I kneel down to get out of the way of individuals with much larger cameras than me, which results in a series of photographs of random pant legs;
11:03 Ben Capron, Specialized Bicycle’s Chief Brand Officer and I stand aside and discuss just what it is that a chief brand officer does. I’m still not sure. He then produces some photos of his children. They are real damn cute.
12:00 We adjourn from the fit seminar to go to lunch. I purposefully sit alone as I am generally afraid of people I don’t know. Plus it aides in my appearance of not really wanting to talk with anyone, which I kind of don’t.
12:49 I introduce myself to Specialized Bicycles founder and owner Mike Synard. See second passage from 10:15 this morning. He is obviously aware that he is in the presence of not exactly greatness, but not exactly the opposite of greatness either.
1:00 I return to the lunchroom to procure cookies. An attractive blond lady with way more muscley arms than me makes mention of this act. I eat both of them at once without shame.
2:00 A group of my fellow press camp attendees meet outside of headquarters for a 30ish mile ride. None of the HTC team is present, which is a good thing because during the final sprint at the ride’s conclusion, I opened up a small envelope.. Kinda like a sugar packet of not necessarily whoopass, but more like bitch slap;
4:30 Upon our return to camp, I take a shower, steal a can of Coke and debate whether or not to join my compatriots for a group meal that evening. Two and a half minutes later I’m in my truck and on the road en route to my week’s temporary home;
We’re supposed to have an 8:45 start which was 30 minutes later than day one. I still manage to arrive twenty minutes late. I should also note that so far I’ve lost my bike computer as well as the keys to my rack lock. Living out of the cab of my truck doesn’t necessarily lend to organization;
9:13 Besides the influx of additional general media, the HTC team arrives and the overall attractiveness of Morgan Hill suddenly increases by about 136 percent.
9:27 The bulk of us begin a text book tour where we learn about the history of the company, and the outline of Specialized Bicycles University. We are given the opportunity to take a pass though the design and engineering departments, which are heavily fortified, and full of people and things that I’m not entirely sure I was at liberty to document, let alone discuss;
After sliding down their fire pole we find ourselves in the research and development department. We are surrounded by raw aluminum mules of various configurations that might end up being be the blueprint for a bike that you will eventually sell your soul for, or a dusty relic of an idea that never got off the ground. If I were to call any part of what we have seen so far home, it would be here.
10:09 We are called from R&D immediately to the press conference. Though this isn’t exactly a media shit storm, there are more people with cameras and digital recorders than I’ve ever seen in my life. The air is electric and everyone seems to be in pins and needles.
The words ‘innovation’, ‘synergy’, ‘passion’, and ‘seamless’ are all used at least three times each within the first five minutes of the press conference. I find myself waiting for a laser light show that I am afraid will never happen.
10:40 The team as well as the entirety of management is presented to an enthusiastic audience;
Each athlete who is presented has a list of achievements as impressive as the last. Charlotte Backer, Mark Renshaw, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, Tony Martin.. The list goes on and they keep emerging from stage right. To be in the presence of such physical perfection makes my stomach hurt.
11:00 Media, athletes, management, SBC employees and no fewer than five support vehicles with photography crews converge upon the parking area in preparation for today’s big ride. With so many photographers I imagine that this must be what it’s like to go on any of the Rapha rides.
Alas, an old friend who is employed as a bike designer was coerced into going on a lone ride with just the two of us;
A short burst of ninety minutes, we leap frogged each other on rain slicked country roads and discussed among other things, personal history, hopes, dreams and the finer points of romantic politics. We all return to home base at the same time. The locker room is crowded and The Weather girls ‘It’s Raining Men’ is playing loops in my head. I take my turn at getting cleaner, and warmer and head back into the lunchroom to prepare myself some food.
1:39 After bringing some much needed sustenance into my person, I spy Cav sitting with some teammates across the room. I cautiously approach, kneeling down behind him and ask him one of my favorite questions from Chuck Klosterman’s “IV” which goes something like this;
“Think of someone who is your friend (do not select your best friend, but make sure the person is someone you would classify as “considerably more than an acquaintance”). This friend is going to be attacked by a grizzly bear. Now, this person will survive the bear attack; that is guaranteed. There is a 100% chance that your friend will live. However the extent of his injuries is unknown; he might receive nothing by superficial scratches, but he also might lose a limb (or multiple limbs). He might recover completely in twenty-four hours with nothing but a great story, or he might spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Somehow, you have the magical ability to stop this attack from happening. You can magically save your friend from the bear. But his (or her) salvation will come at a particular price: if you choose to stop the bear, it will always rain. For the rest of your life, wherever you go, it will be raining. Sometimes it will pour and sometimes it will drizzle- but it will never not be raining. But it won’t rain over the totality of the earth, nor will the hydrological cycle be disrupted; these storm clouds will be isolated, and they will focus on your specific whereabouts. You will never see the sun again. Do you stop the bear and accept a lifetime of rain?”
We stared at one another for a moment when he said, “wait a minute.. So is this my best friend in the world, or like, this guy?” as he pointed at teammate Lars Bak. “Well, I don’t know what your relationship is like with him” I said. “Oh.. “ he started. “Yeah, I would definitely stop the attack.” I asked him if that was the easiest interview he’d ever done to which he responded with a staggered and slightly confused yes. I thanked him for his time, grabbed a coffee and walked away.
1:44 I secure my spot for the team Q and A, though my question has already been answered.
Secondly, as Bernie Eisel and Cav walked by, I noted very visible chewing tobacco rings in their front pockets. For this small fact HTC has secured itself as my favorite team of all time.
As the team and the remaining smattering of journalists are all casually conversing and sitting around, I ask the previously mentioned Ben Capron and Equipment Marketing Manager Kevin Franks a selection of similar questions, which devolves into a discussion of psychological and emotional capacities. Never one to let a conversation develop beyond simple niceties, I ask whether they would rather make out with their own mom for a full minute, or give their dad a quick little peck on his butthole.
People scatter as if an Ebola covered grenade was thrown onto the coffee table before us. Two team members look up from their laptop computers to see if what they just heard was for real, and once again I am left sitting alone with a note pad and my shame.
As the afternoon turned into evening, conversation began concerning the eventual team dinner, which I would be sure to miss. Aside from drinking a shot of whisky with Emilia Fahlin, I had achieved everything I had set out to in terms of my first outing as a real, honest to god journalist.
My note pad was filled with unreadable chicken scratch, at least a third of the people I’d interacted with left our exchange either confused, offended or both, and I was able to ask one of the world’s premiere cyclists a question about a bear attack.
All in all, not a bad way to conclude my first and possibly only ever outing as a professional documentarian.
Today’s post is dedicated to Steve Jobs, for without his vision, I wouldn’t be doing what I do, because I sure as hell wouldn’t work on a PC. In all sincerity, thanks for your contribution Mr. Jobs.