I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of new athletes this and last year. Being off the blades and back on two wheels, the athletes are opposite to the extreme. The sports and the environment they are practiced in could not be more different. I find it somewhat ironic that the athletes on two wheels seem to have a little more edge than those on the blades.
Road cycling is a sport that attracts all sorts. I can’t think of any other competitive activity that leads to the cruelty on the bike. You get wet, cold, dropped, crashed, left for all but dead on the road and then have to find your way back to the hotel in a place and/or country you’ve never been. You come to the line with the form of your athletic life and someone comments, ‘you’d be really good if you lost 5 kilos’; you win a race and someone on the podium comments the same.
In the races, I find women at times absolutely crazy. I won’t name names but the things I hear coming out of professional women, PHD’s at times, Mothers, nice women….well, let’s just say this sport brings some kind of evil in some individuals. I find it all amusing when I think back to the ice and the circles we skated in. The only time anyone would scream would be if someone caught an edge and you found a seventeen and a half inch blade frighteningly close to your eyeball. Then, after yelling, you’d all get back into the streamline and commence the set of laps that was briefly interrupted. After the set was complete, the person almost slicing the eyeball would apologize; the almost victim saying sorry for yelling.
I thought it appropriate to highlight the quirkiness and tenacity of my dear teammate Ally Stacher. To say yesterday’s race here in San Dimas, California, was epic is an understatement. For some more than others, it was a bit of a nightmare. My own predicament, along with the three other riders out front all day long, seems rather tame compared to that of Ally’s.
Wind, rain and cold temperatures greeted all categories of riders in the early morning. Mother nature refused to change her tone for the bike race. Category after category dealt with the same degrees of freezing cold wet on the bike. For us, it was as simple as keeping the rubber down. For the officials and volunteers, it was not so simple. Keeping track of who was who with rain vests, shattered fields, crashes et al was all but impossible. I hand it to the volunteers who stuck it out for us in these conditions all day long.
In short, the breakaway riders were not informed the race was finishing a lap earlier until miles after the altered finish. We sprinted without knowing we were sprinting. Oh well.
As for Ally, she was caught in a crash in the very early part of the race. After waiting a long, long time for some help from the neutral support, she never gave up. Riders she chased with gave up and girls she caught refused to pull. But Ally kept pulling. Kept chasing. Like I said, never gave up. She pulled and pulled and rode harder than probably anyone in the race all day, possibly even harder than those of us off the front of the pack in the breakaway. On the very last lap of the race caught back to the main peleton. She actually caught them! Girls she started the chase with failed to make the time cut. Ally, because she kept going like the energizer bunny she is, gets to start the race again today.
Knowing Ally, she’ll be one of the first to attack from the gun.
Which leads me to this ‘ode to Ally’. I’ve been around a lot of athletes over the decades. I’ve seen a lot of talent, ability, desire and lack thereof. The third mentioned trait if the one I admire the most. Desire. Willingness to persevere. Tenacity. All of these words describe Ally. Yesterday was an example of the very element talent and even success does not always entail.
I met Ally at camp for the first time and new she was a gem in the van ride to our hotel in Carlsbad. The girl has spirit. Time and again she has shown to me the capacity of her spirit. No one will really know what she did yesterday, but to me this was the finest example of sportsmanship and the human potential yesterday likely produced.
That she is my teammate makes me proud. Her perseverance inspires me. I’ll remember her actions yesterday when things get tough for me.
These words don’t describe very well who Ally really is because she really is a multi-faceted talent. If you want to see just one of her myriad abilities, check this out:
Go Ally GO!!