August 29, 2008

JV and John KerryI’ll start by saying I am about as apolitical as they come. I am a somewhat disengaged Gen X voter who doesn’t really feel that I can make a difference. In 2004 I voted, but I have to say the 15 minutes I had to wait in line to vote felt like 15 minutes I could have been out riding…or drinking. This from a guy whose father read him the Bill of Rights every July 4th and taught him the value of the American experiment in Democracy. I guess years of never knowing who any of the candidates really were and not knowing what to trust just turned me off.

Anyhow, fast forward to this week. For some reason I’ve been assumed to be a fervent Democrat and have been invited to quite a few DNC parties in my hometown of Denver. I’ve been riding bikes with Mayors, Governors, Senators, all kinds of ‘tors’ this week. They seem pretty into the whole ‘cycling is green bit’, and I’m happy to promote cycling. I quite like it and would love it if people used it to get to work. And how cool would it be if they became Garmin-Chipotle fans as a result?

So, along the DNC Denver party trail, I met up with Hunter Zeising, founder of a very cool national club team called Z team. Hunter and I became buds quite quickly, as he seems pretty enthusiastic on growing the sport, and I respect that. Anyhow, Hunter introduced me to John Kerry one night and we decided to go riding. Another ‘or’ out to show the world he’s ‘green’. But this is where my burned out Gen X attitude got turned on its arse….

What I was expecting was the normal 12 mph dawdle with the Senator wearing some ugly Bermuda shorts or whatever. However, when Senator Kerry showed up at Slipstream HQ in Boulder, man, it was a different story.

First clue was he was excited to be wearing the cycling clothes he got from us. (Yes, he bought them, regulatory agencies reading this.) The second big clue was a race cut medium actually fit him well. The third clue was his legs were shaved! Can you do that and still be a Senator??!

As we got ready for the ride, we figured he could borrow David Millar’s spare 58, if we raised the stem about 10 cm. However, he hopped on the bike and said “yeah, this feels good.” Hmmmm…

On to the ride. Immediately he bumped shoulders with me on the first corner and thought nothing of it. Then he took the first 22 mph pull with me, side by side, for a good 10 minutes. I was somewhat impressed, for sure, but of course we still had some hills to go up. so I withheld judgement.

Chugging along at a fair clip, about halfway up to Jamestown, he had dropped half the group and started asking me for ideas on how to improve some of the anti-doping legislation he has been working to introduce into the Senate. Of course I was so excited he had interest in this area, I spoke until I was blue in the face. And he just about dropped me. Conversation at 280 watts at 6500 ft is not the easiest thing for me, much less a 65 year old guy with a job like his.

JV and Senator John KerryThis guy was a real rider, with real knowledge of racing. The riders, the history, the races, tactics, and the problems of the sport. And he was fit as a champ. He kept chattering along and asking me a multitude of well-thought out and knowledgeable questions about cycling as we passed 7000 ft. He deftly rode out of the saddle and had quite a nice pedalling style on the steeper grades. Truly impressive.

OK, but all this said, when we got to the top, I knew his undoing was at hand. Descending is the enemy of people who have speeches to go to at night and important jobs to go to in the morning. I have years of experience of riding with sponsors and other folks with real jobs, so I know to take it easy on the descents. Else they get hurt or, at the very least, their egos get a bit bruised.

But man…O’ man… John Kerry descended like he stole the friggin’ bike from the GOP. As we hit the first switchback, he immediately put his weight back, counter-steered, and carved the corner like a pro. He put three bike lengths on me like Magnus and Stuey used to do to me back on Credit Agricole. Unreal. This guy was a pilot on the bike. Down the switchback of Lee Hill and over 90 kph and he was not phased… one bit.

Anyhow, after a great two hour ride, some very hopeful conversation about how government can help cycling become more popular and a real weapon against everything from obesity to pollution, and of course, Senator Kerry’s passionate and intelligent ideas on how government can help anti-doping efforts, I gotta say, I kinda like the guy…Politician and all.

And the dude can descend like a lunatic, so at he very least, I know he’s got balls.