We assembled in a multi-colored sea of spandex, covering the parking lot. Honestly, I don't see this many fit people all year, and to see them in one place, for one cause, is incredibly humbling (I'm not as fit as most of the people there) and inspiring (I COULD be as fit as them). And, if you're a bike fan, it's doubly cool. The colors of the skittle-explosion Colnago, deep blue Trek Madones (I hear Trek makes good bikes), orange marmalade Orbeas, Celeste (my Lownje friends know it as seafoam) Bianchis, and even the irony of a blue LeMonde (he was the American cyclist who initially accused Lance of doping). All of them were assembled to fight cancer and to ride with a legend and a hero.
Lance Armstrong is a tool. There. I said it. It doesn't feel good to say it. But I said it. Allow me to explain. At the start of the ride, Lance always takes a few moments to address the crowd. It's always been one of the highlights of the event for me. As a cyclist and cancer survivor, I get to hear a guy who overcame cancer to win, arguably, the hardest bike race in the world. Seven Times. Consecutively.
So when that happens, I expect to hear something special. After all, I am standing with more than 3,000 people who have given their time, their energy, their resources, and their money to raise $1.7 million and be part of an event that bears, in part, the name of this miraculous person. And then he tells us, "I was going to ride the 100 miles with you, but I got tied up with a wedding party in the hotel last night, and, well, that's a different story."
Allow me to translate: "I stayed out too late last night, I got way too drunk, and now I am really just a little too hungover to ride the full 100 miles." Philadelphia is no bump in the road for this event. It's the most important fundraising city in the LiveSTRONG tour of events. And I wonder if there are corporate people who pay even more to be part of that ride. Lance would know. Or should know.
And so, Lance, I'd like to take a brief moment to give you a little advice. I am going to give you 1.7 million reasons why you might NOT want to do something so stupid, ever again. Because when you say something like that, what you're saying is that those people who showed up to ride in your event really aren't as important as the enjoyment you were feeling in that moment, the hedonistic pleasures of crashing a wedding. And that's really not a good idea. For 1.7 million reasons. Seriously.
I think it's important to say this doesn't change my thoughts about doing this ride. I will always raise money to fight cancer because I had cancer, and now I don't and the reason is that people raised money to fund research so I could be here today. But, it does change my thoughts about how I think Lance thinks about those who come out to the event. Or, more accurately, it gives a little insight into how he might NOT think about those people. And that's a mistake. Because that's what a tool would do.
There. Now that's out of the way.
The start of the ride is settled into three large groups -- those riding 100 miles, those riding 45 miles and those riding 20 miles or less. Paul (he really needs a Fish name) and Pat and I started in the 100 mile group. It's something we have done since the very first Ride. Initially, it was because we were shooting to do 100 miles, but I quickly realized it's also the group that starts first, so you actually get out ahead of the other groups. This gives you a little more room, and a little more time. Which is important because there are 3,000 other people looking for room.
True to form, people were crashing right at the beginning of the ride. I imagine that it's pretty embarrassing to crash before you even reach the start line. So Pat, Paul and I stayed back to keep our bikes and dignity (relatively speaking) intact. As we approached the start line, the announcer was commenting on the riders. I rode right next to him and yealled, "Team Fish!!!" and he announced our team as we started out on the journey, to the clickity, clickity clack of spinning chains and shifting gears.